It is very important to follow the laws that apply to the country (or region) you are sending email to or from.

The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 was introduced in the United States and sets out the minimum legal regulatory standards that marketers need to adhere to when they send email marketing campaigns. CAN-SPAM applies in a variety of situations:

  1. If you are sending email to subscribers based in the United States
  2. If you are sending email to a domain that is hosted in the United States / a US Company (like a, or address, for example)

Most US based ISPs and web mail providers require compliance with CAN-SPAM. However, compliance is not a guarantee of message delivery as CAN-SPAM specifically allows ISPs and web mail providers to set their own policies governing message delivery. What is important to point out that it only takes one address in a contact list to require you adhere to CAN-SPAM or other laws. As a general rule, we recommend that you adhere to the strictest rules of the road to ensure global compliance.

There are two basic kinds of email you might send:

  • Commercial content – Advertises or promotes a commercial product or service, including content on a website operated for a commercial purpose.
  • Transactional or Relationship Content – Facilitates an already agreed-upon transaction or updates a customer about an ongoing transaction.

If the primary purpose of the message is commercial, it must comply with the requirements set forth by the CAN-SPAM Act. If your message contains only transactional or relationship content, its primary purpose is transactional or relationship – it must not contain false or misleading header information, but is otherwise exempt from most provisions of CAN-SPAM. That stated it is best practice to not use a deceptive subject line, tell recipients where you are located and provide recipients with the ability to opt-out from receipt of further messages.

What does this mean? You’re allowed to include commercial-based content in transactional emails as long as the transaction remains the email’s “primary purpose”, with the subject line and message body emphasizing the transaction. This gives you an excellent opportunity to make a good first impression with your customers, but it is a delicate balancing act. If this is not done properly, you risk some hefty fines, generating complaints and affecting your transactional deliverability.

United States The CAN-SPAM Act: Requirements for Commercial Emailers

Canada Fighting Internet & Wireless Spam Act (Bill C-28)

Europe Privacy & Electronic Communications Directive (2002/58/EC)

Australia 2003 Spam Act

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