Email Marketing Laws: Keep It Legal With Proper Compliance

Marketing 17 minute read 2nd May 2024

Even the most click-worthy subject lines and action-inducing email content can go to waste without complying with email marketing laws. It might not be apparent at the earlier stages of your email campaign. However, legal problems may be inevitable in the long run.

Getting familiar with the marketing emails law is the best way to avoid this. However, many businesses need help keeping track of all the laws in place. If that’s your problem, this article is the perfect place to explore.

You’ll learn about email marketing compliance, general rules in the U.S., and specific rules in the U.S. and EU. If you stick around to the end, you’ll discover some best practices for following these laws.

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What Is Email Marketing Compliance?

Email marketing compliance refers to adhering to legal requirements, industry standards, and best practices when sending marketing emails. Marketing email law aims to protect your recipient’s privacy, prevent spam, build trust, and promote fair competition. This is especially important with e-commerce email marketing. These purposes clarify that email compliance protects your customers and helps your business. Here’s how.

When your emails don’t go into your customer’s spam folder, there’s a greater chance they’ll read it. In return, there’s a greater chance that they’ll take the action you want them to take.

On the other hand, your email will just stay hidden in a sea of unread emails in the spam folder.

Moreover, using legitimate means to build an email list is also a part of many email guidelines. Following them means customers themselves give you their emails. That means every message you send reaches people who are already interested in what you have to say.

Again, that increases your chance of achieving your email marketing goals.

Besides, sending commercial emails from high-authority addresses builds trust among your customers. Yet again, that works in your favor if the email content is good enough. Therefore, pay attention to email marketing and the law to avoid email marketing mistakes.

Who Enforces and Changes the Rules for Email Marketing?

Each country has its governing agency that ensures companies follow the laws regarding email marketing. If we specifically talk about the United States, the Federal Trade Commission is one of those agencies.

International bodies like the European Data Protection Regulation also enforce these rules. Plus, government bodies might also interfere with changing, adding, or removing anything.

Besides, these companies constantly keep changing the guidelines to include new areas that might interfere with user privacy and security.

For example, the U.S.-EU privacy shield allowed the transfer of personal data from the U.S. to the EU. However, authorities later took it down due to the inadequacy of U.S. regulations. Companies relying solely on the U.S.-EU privacy shield are not properly compliant with email privacy laws.

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Follow These General Email Marketing Laws US

Now that you know the basics of email rules, let’s discuss what you must do to follow them.

Apart from the specific rules, you must also follow some general email marketing laws in the US. This isn’t just to keep your email messages out of spam folders. These guidelines also make your emails more effective.

First, each email you send, whether commercial or personal, must have a header and subject line. Pay special attention to the “From” section.

Add proper information about you and your business so the recipient knows exactly where the email originated.

Moreover, the subject line should state what the email is for. For example, if you haven’t added a discount link in the email’s body, don’t mislead customers by saying you have.

Next, the email body should be crisp and accurate. You can add creativity, but don’t forget to be truthful and transparent. For example, if you’re sending transactional emails or doing B2B email marketing, clearly mention that.

Additionally, include a complete and accurate postal address to improve brand awareness and build credibility. For the same purpose, add a link to your website if you have one.

Lastly, you must make it easy for recipients to unsubscribe from your email list. For that, add an unsubscribe link in the email and make it easy to follow. Without following these guidelines, you might get a fine from the U.S. government.

5 Email Marketing Laws for Businesses in the U.S. and EU

The general rules you learned above are a part of almost all specific rules. But those aren’t the only things you need to take care of. To properly comply with email guidelines, you must first determine who you’ll email.

If you have customers outside of your operating places, you might have to follow the rules for both.

Therefore, create a list of all your customers and segment them according to locations. If they live in the U.S. or EU, follow these five email marketing laws.

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1. CAN-SPAM Laws Aren’t Just for Bulk Messages

Earlier, we mentioned that multiple bodies enforce laws in each country. The CAN-SPAM Act is one such body for the U.S. It stands for Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act.

The general rules discussed in the previous section are all a part of it. But just following those rules doesn’t guarantee compliance with CAN-SPAM laws because of the additional rules you need to follow.

How you process opt-out requests is also a part of this email marketing law. Every time someone unsubscribes, you must remove them from your list within ten days. Do this for free, and don’t ask the recipient to take extra steps. If they click the unsubscribe link, their work is over.

With regards to third-party email service providers, there’s no restriction on their use. But the rules apply in that case as well.

Failure to comply with these rules may result in heavy fines for each non-compliant email. That can be a lot if you do mass email marketing.

2. California Email Marketing Laws for Precise Compliance

While the CAN-SPAM Act is the most prominent in the U.S., state laws also affect email marketing. There aren’t any specific California email marketing laws. However, there’s the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which has several rules that apply to email marketing for small businesses.

The California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA) says that CCPA applies to your business if you meet the following criteria:

  • You earn annual gross revenues of over $25 million.
  • You handle the personal information of about 100,000 Californians and earn at least 50% of your revenue from it.

If you meet this criterion, you must tell customers you’re saving personal information. You must also show 100% transparency about how you’ll use it.

You might also have to obtain a “service provider agreement” from the email provider. Again, you must let customers opt out at any time under the CCPA. Moreover, there’s a purpose limitation clause here, so you might be unable to send emails for unrelated purposes.

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3. Virginia Also Has Its Own Email Marketing Rules

Virginia is another state that doesn’t necessarily have its email marketing laws but does have a framework that applies. That framework is the Virginia Consumer Data Protection Act (VCDPA), which came into effect in January 2003. The criteria for this act is the same as California’s, except here, you’re dealing with Virginians.

Moreover, the rules are the same as those of the California Consumer Privacy Act. These rules might also apply to nearby states such as Colorado, Connecticut, and Utah.

4. European Countries Enforce ePrivacy Directive via National Law

After discussing three U.S. laws, let’s move on to the EU, where the ePrivacy directive is the most prominent.

This isn’t a directive specifically for the European countries, but they enforce it through their national laws. Therefore, its application might be slightly different from country to country.

Since this directive is mainly about privacy, you cannot send unsolicited emails under it. This means you’ll be non-compliant when a person has not explicitly permitted you to send emails. Moreover, the recipients won’t pay attention to your future emails because you violated their privacy.

Therefore, get your recipients’ consent before sending them marketing emails. Under the ePrivacy directive, this can also be a soft opt-in. For example, if a customer gives you their email address when making a purchase. Or if you’re sending emails about products and services similar to what they’ve purchased.

In addition, you must follow the general guidelines we mentioned above. However, if the sender and receiver are both businesses, the ePrivacy directive might not apply in some countries.

5. GDPR Gives Privacy to the People of Europe

Another law in the EU is GDPR, which relates to user privacy but is more strict than the ePrivacy directive.

With regard to penalties, no other law has higher fines than non-compliance with GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation.) It applies to anyone who handles personal data.

Here, soft opt-ins don’t count as user consent. Moreover, you must be transparent and say precisely what you’ll use the saved data for. Plus, you can’t save the data for longer than necessary.

But it doesn’t stop at data collection because you must update the data and ensure it’s correct. For example, if one of your recipients changes their contact information, you must also change it in your email database. Lastly, keep the data secure and protect it from prying eyes.

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Does Email Opt-In Language Matter When Building a List?

Email opt-in language matters when building an email list because it convinces customers to subscribe. Additionally, it is essential for compliance.

It’s natural to wonder about this since we’ve mentioned opt-ins at multiple places throughout this article. Especially with GDPR, they’re of supreme importance.

Therefore, your subscribers’ consent must be “fairly given, specific, informed, and unambiguous.”

You must provide clear instructions and details on what your subscribers will get in return. Additionally, use memorable words and creativity to spark the reader’s interest.

Follow Email Laws To Make Your Campaigns More Effective

Email marketing laws depend on the location of the sender and receiver. For the US, these are CAN-SPAM, CCPA, and VCDPA. For the EU, they’re ePrivacy directive and GDPR. You must ensure your email marketing campaigns comply with these laws, and you’re good to go.

Do you want to improve your email marketing results? Beambox is helping over 12,000 businesses scale their marketing operations, including email marketing. Whether you want to set up a captive portal or comply while running campaigns effectively, we’ve got your back. Start your Beambox free trial today to maximize your results with email marketing.

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