Are Your Emails Legal? 7 Dos and Don'ts

Email is almost 40 times better at acquiring new customers than Facebook and Twitter (McKinsey & Company, 2014). But you can’t just send marketing emails out willy-nilly. There are laws in place through the Federal Trade Commission’s CAN-SPAM Act that could get you in serious trouble if you aren’t careful (like $16,000-per-email kind of trouble). Here’s the quick guide:

  1. DON’T use deceptive header information. The email has to say whom it’s really from – that includes the domain name and email address.
  2. DON’T use deceptive subject lines. Your subject line has to be directly related to the email’s content.
  3. DO mention that the message is an ad. But you have a lot of freedom in how you say it.
  4. DO tell recipients your location. The message must include your business’s valid postal address (a P.O. box works, too).
  5. DO tell recipients how to opt out of future emails. Include clear and easy “unsubscribe” instructions. 
  6. DO honor opt-out requests within 10 business days. And don’t make the recipient do anything extra to unsubscribe (other than sending a reply email or visiting a single webpage). 
  7. DO monitor emails others send on your behalf. Your company is legally responsible for the actions of any company you hire to do your email marketing. 


“A legal mistake could cost you $16,000 per email.”

B Savvy:

  • Research foreign email laws, too. If sending to email addresses in another country, check its email marketing laws. 
  • Get permission before adding email addresses to your database. Like by including a “Yes, I want to receive emails” checkbox on the entry form you are using to collect email addresses.
  • Never purchase email addresses. This is not the same as buying postal addresses; sending people emails without permission could get you banished to the spam folder.
  • Update your database regularly. “Scrub” your list to delete dead email addresses on a regular basis (this will improve your open rates).

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Tags: Branding & Advertising, Web & Digital, PR & Social Media

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