9 Essential Checks for Email Legal Compliance in Any Country

Posted by Tom Sather 

Complying with international email laws can be daunting for any marketer. Countries have their own rules and regulations that vary considerably. In a perfect world, it would be easy to identify and segment subscribers and email them according to their country’s email and privacy laws. Wouldn’t a list of general practices that a marketer could reference to be compliant in most key markets be great? Look no more!

Michelle Wimmer, Return Path’s wonderful and fantastic intern for the Professional Services department, compiled an extremely helpful list that should be posted on every email marketer’s wall. Tomorrow is Michelle’s last day with us before she goes back to law school. Before pursuing her career in law, she had over five years of experience in marketing.  She was kind enough to send me this list to post internally, but I thought it was too good not to share with everyone else.  Thank you Michelle and best of luck in your upcoming school year!

Please note: Do not substitute this blog post for legal advice. All email senders and marketers should consult with their attorney.

  1. Opt-in: Does your company send opt-in messages only?  Certain countries require senders to obtain opt-in permission.
  2. False or misleading subject lines: Does your company send emails with false or misleading subject lines? Laws may not allow companies to send emails with false or misleading subject lines.
  3. Clear way to opt-out: Do your emails provide a clear way for customers to opt out of receiving the emails? In order to be compliant, a number of countries require commercial emails recipients to have a clear method to opt-out.
  4. Store proof of opt-ins: Does your company store proof of opt-ins and are opt-ins stored in a secure manner? Some laws require senders to store proof of opt-ins.
  5. Monitor the reply-to address: Does your company monitor the reply to address for emails and respond in a timely manner?  Make sure to monitor the reply-to address as certain countries require this as a component of its email regulations.
  6. Valid postal address: Does your company use a valid postal address in the emails? Laws in specific countries may require a display of a valid postal address in the email message.
  7. Unsubscribe method: Does your company provide a way to unsubscribe, in addition to online unsubscribe methods (like the option to call, fax, mail, etc.)? Some countries have laws that require a sender to provide subscribers with more than one method to unsubscribe.
  8. Harvest: Does your company take part in harvesting of any email addresses? A number of countries have restrictions on harvesting email addresses.
  9. Privacy policy: Does your company display a privacy policy? Laws exist as well around privacy issues.  Senders may want to link to a privacy policy that is straightforward and easy to read, displays an effective date of the policy, and alerts consumers how to change their personal identifiable information.

What other items would you add to this list? Share them in the comments below!


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About Tom Sather

Email data and deliverability expert Tom Sather has worked with top-tier brands to diagnose and solve inbox placement and sender reputation issues as a strategic consultant with Return Path. As the company’s senior director of research, Tom is a frequent speaker and writer on email marketing trends and technology. His most recent analysis of new inbox applications’ effects on consumer behavior was widely cited across leading business media outlets including the Financial Times, Ad Age, and Media Post.

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