Do you have permission to email someone or add them to your email list? It’s an important question for business owners, especially ones that rely on email marketing or networking for their business. As with anything, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it.
The United States actually has one of the loosest email spam laws out there. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t legal limits.
There’s a lot to it, but basically, you can legally email someone your newsletter if you have a relationship and they haven’t told you not to, or your email meets certain criteria.
Those criteria include listing your address and an easy-to-find, one-step, unsubscribe feature. You also can’t use a misleading “re:” in the subject line or disguise your email as though it is from someone other than you.
Very low bar to meet legalities.
If you have users from other countries, especially European countries, you may deal with far more strict laws regarding permission. Keep that in mind!
Every major email provider takes great measures to reduce spam. These range from phishing attempts to someone sending you an annoying newsletter. To help them fight spam, they include the option to report someone as spam. This is where businesses get into trouble.
I want to specifically thank my friends at Enagic Kangen Water for having one of their sales associates call and demand to be able to email me after I removed myself from their email list. They inspired this post.
Note: every email user in the world has the right to report any email as spam to their email provider. Because of this, it is important for businesses to only email those who want to be emailed. Typically, the best advice is only emailing those people who have “opted in.” A person opts in if they fill out a form on your website or tell you specifically they would like to receive your email newsletter.
Do I Have Permission to Email?
Here are a few things that do not constitute an opt in and may result in your emails getting marked as spam:
- Receiving a person’s business card.
- Buying a list of email addresses.
- Finding a person’s email address on their website or association they’re a part of.
- Sign in sheets at an event where it is not obvious they’re signing up for an email list.
Because of how easy it is for a person to mark your email newsletter as spam, it is much better to err on the safe side. Remember that a large number of subscribers does you nothing. What you want is a good number of interested subscribers.
Richard is the managing attorney for Law Plus Plus, a local small business law firm. As managing attorney, he helps small businesses and nonprofits startup, creating the contracts, and navigate the legal needs of businesses. Some of his practice areas include: corporate, contract, mergers & acquisitions, corporate litigation, and estate planning.