Tremendous amounts of emails are sent out globally every day. The ability to market to individuals through the email marketing channel can provide organizations with great opportunities, but also carries a huge responsibility at the same time.
There are various laws governing digital marketing and communications worldwide that can make legal compliance a challenge. If you are a marketer, it is your responsibility to understand all anti-spam laws and marketing regulations for all of the regions your organization does business in.
Let’s take a look at each country’s relevant laws and how you need to go about ensuring you comply with them:
If you are an email marketer who sends mails targeting audiences in the United States, you need to have a full understanding of the CAN-SPAM Act. This covers all commercial messages, which means any email that promotes/advertises a product or service. Failure to comply with this law can lead to fines of up to $16,000 per email received. If you send an email to 1,000 people and you are found to have been in violation of CAN-SPAM, you could potentially receive a fine of $16m, which would easily bankrupt many small to medium size businesses.
The requirements for CAN-SPAM are as follows:
- Don’t use false or misleading header information – all details you provide must be accurate and clearly identify where the email has come from.
- Don’t use deceptive subject lines – these must accurately reflect the content of the email.
- Identify the message as an ad – if the email is an advertisement, it must be clearly disclosed.
- Tell recipients where you’re located with a physical address – this can be a street address, PO Box or private mailbox.
- Tell recipients how to opt-out of receiving future email from you – people must be clearly able to unsubscribe from your messages.
- Honor opt-out requests promptly – unsubscribes must be honored within 10 working days.
- Monitor what others are doing on your behalf – this applies particularly if you use an outside agency to do your email marketing.
The Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation, known commonly as CASL, is one of the strictest anti-spam laws in the world and has already levied large fines against some big organizations like the online dating site, Plenty of Fish. It encompasses all the requirements of the CAN-SPAM Act and adds the following caveats:
- You can only email a recipient if they have given full permission.
- Proof of opting in to emails is required.
- Full business information is required.
- You cannot collect and use email addresses without permission.
As Europe is made up of numerous countries, there is no single anti-spam law, but a variety of different ones throughout. However, all of these laws have the following points in common:
- Express opt-in permission is needed before you send someone an email.
- There must be an appropriate unsubscribe mechanism in place with required notice.
- All recipients who opt-out of emails must be removed from your lists permanently.
When sending emails to Europe, it makes sense to review the anti-spam law of each country. If you treat all European countries the same, you risk overlooking compliance issues in certain countries. Email marketing best practice dictates that you utilize geographic segmentation and create per-country anti-spam law checklists to protect yourself against any financial consequences.
Australia and New Zealand
If you are sending to recipients in Australia, you need to be aware of the country’s Spam Act of 2003. Similar to CASL, it requires permission to be obtained and harvesting email addresses is prohibited. The only exceptions are messages from:
- Government bodies.
- Registered charities.
- Registered political parties.
- Educational institutions to current and former students.
The law doesn’t apply to New Zealand, but express consent and the ability to unsubscribe is still required.
Many countries in these regions tend to have much looser requirements than the West, but they all still require an opt-in process. There might be a lack of firm anti-spam laws in these areas, but it is still important to get a full understanding of which countries have measures in place and how you need to comply with them.
As an email marketer, it is your duty to comply with the anti-spam laws of the countries that you email to. It is always in your best interest to ask for permission to message someone before starting a digital relationship and you’ll never have to worry about breaking the law. Email marketing is a powerful tool, but also has some powerful consequences if it is not used in a responsible manner.