Emails are an excellent marketing tool for attracting new customers and informing them about your products, services, prices, sales, and important events. However, regulatory compliance in email marketing can be challenging, and penalties are severe.
As spam becomes a bigger problem, governments approve legislation to protect citizens from unsolicited emails. Most email marketers are familiar with local laws but may remain unaware of international requirements.
It's a challenging task to stay on top of international anti-spam legislation. Certain practices, legal in one country, may be illegal and subject to heavy fines in another. This article will help you determine what you should do with subsequent campaigns to comply with various local regulations.
General Rules to Follow Before Sending Out Emails
The Controlling the Assault of Nonsolicited Pornography and Marketing (CANSPAM) Act is well known to marketers in the United States. This act covers sending emails for commercial advertisement and promoting commercial products or services.
However, the United States' email regulations are less strict than those in other countries. As a result, it's essential to understand other countries' regulations to keep your messages out of spam folders.
Headers and Subject Line
The headers should include all vital information about the sender in the "From" section. The subject line should clearly define the purpose of the email and may not be misleading.
The body of the email must indicate that it's an advertisement, although there are no specific rules for creativity in such emails. Additionally, the email should include a valid and reachable postal address, and should also have a link to the company’s web site.
You can always find unsubscribe links in domestic and international emails because companies must not send emails without an unsubscribe option. Failure to include one in your emails could result in a fine from the US government.
Differences in Local Email Laws and Regulations
1. United Kingdom and the European Union
The two primary laws governing email marketing in the UK are:
- The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR): Individuals can deny companies access to their data under this regulation. With the GDPR, an individual's explicit or implicit consent is critical. Consent can be informed, specific, and include a sign of agreement. It restricts the use of an individual's data. It allows storage of personal information for non-marketing purposes until when not in use.
The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR): This law is part of the EU's ePrivacy Directive. These rules aim to regulate direct marketing communications sent to individuals via electronic means such as text messages or emails.
The PECR regulates:
- Use of any form of electronic marketing communication (text messages, emails, etc.)
- The security requirements for communication service providers (securing customer privacy directories, location-based data, traffic, and other identifiers).
In 2003, Australia passed the Spam Act. It is one of the strictest email regulations in the world. Anonymous emails are not allowed, opt-out is compulsory, and messages must include accurate sender information. This rule outlines consent procedures: explicit (direct) and implied consent. The latter requires your recipient to willingly provide contact information, and only if you already have a previous relationship with the recipient. And even explicit consent has limits over specific types of email. However, it's still legal to obtain permission over the phone.
Additionally, the email sender has only five days to honor opt-out requests, and the recipient should not need to register or log in in order to opt-out. It's also illegal to use address-collection software.
Canada's anti-spam law (CASL) is similar to that of Europe, with regard to text messages, social media marketing, and even software programs.
To be compliant, you must do the following:
- Determine who is the sender entity and who is sending messages on their behalf.
- Give full contact information.
- Provide an opt-out option with a website link.
- The link must be valid for at least 60 days, and you must react within ten days.
4. European Countries
Although Europe shares some similarities with the US, they have more complex email rules. While the European Union (EU) has common anti-spam regulations, they also vary by country.
One aspect of Europe's email regulations is that direct marketers can only send promotional emails to subscribers willing to receive them. While the requirements for header information and unsubscribe options are similar in Europe and the United States, the body must clearly label the email's information about the promotion, sales, or prizes.
They operate under these laws:
- The Federal Data Protection Act.
- Telemedia Act.
- Act against unfair competition.
- Consent is compulsory.
- The sender must include means of identification and contact information.
- An unsubscribe link is a must.
- The sender must have a postal address.
- Failure to comply will result in a EUR 4,000 fine per email.
They operate under the Dutch telecommunication Act.
- Receivers' consent is necessary.
- A maximum time frame of 30 days for processing opt-out requests is allowed.
- There must be an unsubscribe link in the email.
- Provision of a postal address.
- Clear identification of sender.
- EUR 450,000 fine for non-compliance.
They use Article L. 43-5 Code of Postal and Electronic Communication.
- Receivers must grant consent.
- Messages must include clear identification of sender.
- Correct postal address of the sender should be provided.
- Charges up to EUR 750 per email for non-compliance.
They operate under the Spanish Act on Information Society Services and Electronic Commerce.
- Obtain the receiver's permission.
- Provide a clear sender identification.
- Include the correct postal address.
- Pay approximately EUR 600,000 for infringement.
They operate using the Italian Data Protection Act.
- Seek receiver's consent.
- Provide clear identification of sender.
- Failure to comply may result in up to 3 years imprisonment.
It's challenging to create emails that meet international standards, but this checklist can offer some help:
- Send emails only to those who have requested to receive them.
- Keep track of consents.
- Make sure your unsubscribe link works.
- Make unsubscribing quick and straightforward.
- Make sure your recipients know that you really are the sender.
- Include your brand name and choose a unique From name.
- Offer a fast and convenient way for your subscribers to contact you.
- Include a valid postal address and a working email address in each mailing.
- Keep honest, never use false or misleading subject lines or content to hide your email's commercial nature.
This article provides an overview of international email laws, not a legal advice. Please consult an attorney regarding any email marketing regulations or legal issues.