Act-On Adaptive Web

Are You Compliant with Global Email Marketing Regulations?

Article Outline

As digital marketers, we have access to tremendous amounts of data about our prospects and customers, which comes to us through the multiple tools we use across multiple channels. Our ability to use that data to market to those individuals creates amazing opportunities, but it creates a huge responsibility as well.

The laws that govern digital communications and digital marketing vary from country to country, which makes compliance a challenge. We’re not attorneys, so we can’t give out legal guidance, but we can steer you in the right directions and make it easier to meet your global compliance obligations.

As marketers, it’s the responsibility of all of us to understand the anti-spam laws and marketing regulations for all of the regions where we do business. Let’s take a look at each country’s relevant laws, and highlight what email marketers need to know to comply with them.


For email marketers targeting audiences in the United States, it’s important to have a full understanding of the CAN-SPAM Act. This law covers all commercial messages, which means any email with the goal of advertising and/or promoting a product or service. Penalties for failing to comply with this law can result in fines of up to $16,000. That’s per email received, not sent. If you send one message to 100 people, and that message is in violation, you are liable not for $16,000 but for 16,000 X 100 … $1,600,000.

According to the FTC, the requirements are as follows:

  • Don’t use false or misleading header information
  • Don’t use deceptive subject lines
  • Identify the message as an ad
  • Tell recipients where you’re located with a physical address
  • Tell recipients how to opt-out of receiving future email from you
  • Honor opt-out requests promptly
  • Monitor what others are doing on your behalf


For those sending email to recipients in Canada, it’s important to have full knowledge of Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL). This is one of the world’s most stringent anti-spam laws. It encompasses all requirements of the CAN-SPAM Act, and adds the following:

  • You need full permission from the recipient to send email to them
  • Proof of opt-in is required
  • Full business information identification is required
  • You are prohibited from collecting and using email addresses without permission

Both laws must be followed if you are sending across North America and even if you’re only sending within the US, following the requirements of CASL is highly recommended.


While there isn’t a single anti-spam law or legislation that covers all of Europe, there are anti-spam laws in place at a number of countries. Commonalities across all of these laws include:

  • Express opt-in permission is required before you can send someone your data
  • You must provide functional opt-out process with required notice
  • Anyone who opts out must be withdrawn from your lists forever

For email marketers sending to Europe, it’s important to place emphasis on segmentation of each country and to have a fully functioning knowledge of how anti-spam laws are applied in those specific countries.

Marketers that treat all European countries the same run the risk of overlooking compliance issues in certain countries – and facing the resulting consequences. By utilizing geographic segmentation and creating per-country anti-spam law checklists, you protect yourself from pitfalls while also implementing an email marketing best practice.

Asia/South America/Africa

There’s no comprehensive email legislation in place that encompasses an entire continent and the various countries within them. While many countries in Asia, South America, and Africa often have looser requirements, they still all require an opt-out notice. Despite the lack of firm anti-spam laws in each area, it’s still important to have a full understanding of which countries have measures in place and how to oblige them.

Australia and New Zealand

For those sending to Australian recipients, it’s important to understand that country’s Spam Act of 2003.

Like CASL, permission is required and the harvesting of emails isn’t allowed. The only messages that can be sent without consent under the law are messages from government bodies, registered charities, registered political parties, and messages from educational institutions to former or current students. While this law doesn’t apply in New Zealand, consent and a functional unsubscribe are still required.

For those who want to begin marketing mailings outside of the United States or want to have a resource on hand to ensure you’re currently complying with all necessary rules, take the time to download and review our International Email Privacy & Consent Guide.


As a marketer, you are on the hook for complying with the laws of Best Practices in Email Deliverabilitythe lands you mail to. As an ethical digital marketer, you should always ask for permission (opt-in) before you start the digital relationship. It’s the right thing to do.

For more best practices on how to manage the critical factors that affect the deliverability of your email messages, check out our eBook – Best Practices in Email Deliverability.

What's New?