Recently we encountered a problem with a data list that was supplied by a client for use within an HTML email campaign.
As is usual, we asked a few simple questions of our client regarding the data:
1. Where did the data actually come from?
2. Has the list been used before, and when?
3. Can you prove the subscribers actually have opted-in to receive mailings from your company?
Our client’s previous supplier did not subscribe to the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 nor had they questioned the legitimacy of the list before agreeing to send out a campaign. So unfortunately in this instance, as our client was unable to prove the legitimacy of the data’s origin and show exactly how people had subscribed, we had to refuse to send the mailing.
As awkward as this was for the client, it was essential to protect them and ourselves from any possible prosecution regarding the distribution of SPAM. Had we sent to the list without reviewing its content, it is quite possible that we could have received hundreds, if not thousands of complaints that could have resulted in legal action against us both.
Anyone inside the European Union must comply with the EU Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications. Article 13 prohibits the use of email addresses for marketing purposes. The Directive establishes instead an opt-in regime, where unsolicited emails may only be sent with prior agreement of the recipient
What is Spam?
Spam is classified as “any email you send to someone who hasn’t given you their direct permission to contact them on the topic of the email.” Everyone must ensure that they have an opted-in permission from every single address on their mailing list before sending a campaign.
How can you ensure that you comply?
When the law doesn’t provide you with enough clarity, just ask yourself; can you prove you have permission to send to every individual on your list? If in doubt, don’t send, it’s not worth the risk.
In order to ensure that you fully comply when sending your next campaign, you must only collect data via:
- An email newsletter sign-up subscription form made available on your web site.
- An opt-in checkbox on a website enquiry form. (This checkbox must NOT be checked by default, only the person completing the form must willingly select the checkbox to indicate their desire to hear from you). If someone completes an offline form like a survey or enters a competition, you can only contact them if it was verbally explained to them that you or your business would be contacting them by email AND they ticked a box indicating they would like you to contact them.
- Customers who have purchased from your business within the last 2 years.
- If someone gives you their business card and you have explicitly asked for permission to add them to your list – you can contact them. If their business card was collected at random for example at a trade show, there must have been a sign clearly indicating that they will be contacted by email about a specific topic.
The above examples are obviously to be used as a guide but should ensure that your data is collected in a legitimate manner. This is likely to result in a smaller but much more targeted and accurate list being created. On the plus side, this should result in more genuine inquiries to be able to convert to sales as opposed to the more ‘scatter gun’ approach a lot of businesses are used to.
So to clarify, if you;
- Do not have explicit, provable permission to contact in relation to the topic of the email you’re sending.
- Purchased, loaned, rented or in any way acquired from a third party, no matter what they claim about quality or permission – do NOT buy lists!
- Haven’t contacted via email in the last 2 years.
- Copy and pasted from the web or any other location.
You MUST obtain permission yourself to use the data. Permission also doesn’t age well and these people may have either changed their email address or won’t remember giving their permission in the first place. Keep your data clean and clients happy.
If you would like any advice with regards what constitutes a permissible list, get in touch.