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International Email Requirements - Know Before You Send
Posted on Mar. 23, 2016

In Utah, businesses are finding it easier than ever to sell their products abroad. Their legal needs are often as diverse as their product lines, but one thing most of these businesses have in common is a method of communicating promotional information to customers: Email. Often, Utah businesses are unaware of the anti-spam laws around the world and do not realize that, while in compliance with US’s CAN-SPAM Act, they are nevertheless violating the law where their customer resides.

If your company has “gone global” and now wishes to send commercial emails to customers, here are some best practices we recommend.*

  1. First, require an opt-in. It is more common for anti-spam legislation to require the customer to affirmatively opt-IN to receiving commercial email messages than to opt-out. For example, Canada, the Europe Union, China, and Japan require the company to obtain affirmative opt-ins before sending any commercial emails.
  2. Second, require the customer to tick the opt-in box. In most opt-in regimes, a pre-checked box in an opt-in field will not be accepted as an indication of express consent.
  3. Third, include an unsubscribe link. Most laws on electronic commercial communication require an opt-out or unsubscribe opportunity be included in each email. Further, make sure your company is ready to honor the opt-out quickly! In most countries (US included), the opt-out request must be honored no later than 10 business days after receipt.
  4. Fourth, get to the point in the subject line. The subject line of the commercial email must be clear, accurate, and no longer than 25 characters in length. Note: In China the word “Ad” must appear in the subject line.
  5. Fifth, include all required information. The following information should be included in each commercial email: the full name of the company sending the message, the place of business registration, the registration number, the address of the registered office, the VAT number where applicable, a valid physical postal address, and a valid return address.
  6. Sixth, keep records of your opt-ins. Since your company could be at risk of enforcement action if a person claims they did not consent to receive a commercial email, you must be able to prove that the person did give valid consent. China requires your proof of opt-ins be available to audit for an indefinite period of time.
  7. Finally, assign expiry dates to your opt-ins. While there is no fixed time limit after which consent automatically expires, most jurisdictions will deem it to have expired at some point… and when that point occurs depends on the context of the opt-in. If your emails relate to a current promotion, the opt-ins should be deemed to expire at the end of the promotion.  If no expiration date applies, maintain your customers’ good will by requesting they re-opt-in or by offering them the opportunity to adjust their email preferences (e.g. type of ads they want to receive and how often) every 12 to 18 months.

*Please bear in mind, this is not intended to be legal advice, just general good practices. Some jurisdictions may have more stringent requirements than others. Please consult with an international transactional attorney to make sure your company is compliant.

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Tim_Anderson

Tim Anderson, Attorney

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Rachel Naegeli, Attorney