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Brushing up on international anti-spam regulations

It’s no secret that we’ve all, at one point or another, seen our email inboxes cluttered with emails that you didn’t ask for and you don’t want. In that instant you find a question forming in your head, “Is that even legal?”

An answer to this question may not be so simple though. You would only need to carry out a little research to find yourself trapped in an abyss looking at what might not even be relevant to your initial question. So, in this blog post, we’ll take you through the sub-questions that help you start to gain an idea of what this answer might look like without needlessly confusing you.

Which countries have anti-spam laws?

Countries which have laws in regards to email spam are summed up in the map below. Countries such as Canada and South Africa have multiple pieces of legislation covering this. Some countries such as France, Germany and the UK are covered by their own sets of law along with EU law governing the region.

Some countries, such as Brazil and India, to this day lack legal restrictions aimed at the senders of spam email. It does not rule out the opportunity to take legal action against spam if it has caused genuine harm or loss. As development takes place, it is inevitable that each country will soon have it’s own set of laws tackling this problem.

Do you need to opt-in?

For all countries with regulations against spam, the answer is yes. The sole exception to this is, USA’s CAN-SPAM act. This act not only does not require that they opt-in before receiving emails from you but requires that you give them the opportunity to opt-out.

It is important from a legal standpoint that the sender keeps track of the opt-in for future reference.

What type of opt-in is acceptable?

The acceptable forms of opting-in to receive emails is undoubtedly a subject with different perspectives. This is reflected quite  blatantly in the legal variations. Some countries such as Germany require that an individual is asked to opt-in twice before they can receive such content. Other countries may require providing confirmation through emails of their decision to opt-in.

The ‘grey area’ in regards to opting-in begins with passive acts that may signal opting-in. An example of this would be a pre-checked opt-in box. It is only currently banned in a number of countries which are:

  • Canada
  • Germany
  • Australia
  • Netherlands
  • France

Do you have a right to opt-out?

The option to unsubscribe from a mailing list, or put simply, to opt-out, is one with a majority worldwide legal consensus. It is required that this process be as simple as possible, completed by only providing an email address and nothing further.

There is a genuine difference in how long a country will allow the sender to make an opt-out take effect from when it is requested. This tends to be:

  • Australia – 5 days
  • USA, Canada – 10 work days
  • Spain – 10 days
  • UK – 28 days
  • The Netherlands – 30 days
  • Germany, France, Italy – As reasonable

Needless to say, it is far better for the sender to carry this out as soon as possible as they run the risk of being flagged as spam.

What else needs to be in your email?

This is something that varies amongst countries. We’ve summed up the regulations for a few countries in the following table:

This becomes an issue of increasing importance as the world takes an unified step into a secure digital world. It’s not a matter that we can ignore for much longer, making it absolutely essential that we learn these laws, at the minimum in the context of our own countries.

* At EmailOctopus, as per our terms and conditions, we require that all senders ensure that their recipients have opted-in to receiving emails.

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