Sales & Marketing

GDPR and CAN-SPAM: Email Marketing Regulations You Need to Know

Email marketing can be a valuable tool for small business owners to connect with potential and current customers. But, with great power comes great responsibility, and laws are in place to ensure that businesses are not abusing their email privileges. GDPR and CAN-SPAM are two laws that every small business owner should be aware of, regardless of where you operate from. In this blog, we’ll discuss what GDPR and CAN-SPAM are, what they require, and how they should be implemented to keep your small business in the clear.

Related Reading: Why Your Small Business Needs to Invest in Email Marketing

What is GDPR?

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which came into effect in May 2018, is designed to protect the personal data of individuals in the European Union (EU). However, its reach extends past the borders of the EU as businesses worldwide could collect personal data from EU individuals. It’s essential to understand that almost everything related to your email marketing campaign falls under the GDPR’s purview. You need explicit consent to email an EU residential or business email address.

The GDPR requires you to collect this consent actively. Pre-ticked boxes or ambiguous language won't work. Instead, you should offer specific and informed consent options and avoid hiding actions behind technical or legal jargon. A good rule of thumb is to explicitly state why data is collected, how it's used or processed, any third-parties involved, and how long it'll retain the data. Lastly, include a clear and easy method to withdraw consent whenever someone wishes to do so.

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How to Stay Compliant with GDRP Regulations

As a small business owner, it's crucial to ensure that your operations are GDPR compliant. Here's a step-by-step guide to help you navigate this process:

1. Understand the Basics of GDPR

Start by familiarizing yourself with the core principles of GDPR. This can help you understand why it's important and how it affects your business operations. Remember, ignorance of the law is not an excuse for non-compliance.

2. Complete a Data Audit

Identify what personal data you hold, where it came from, how it's used, and who it's shared with. This will give you a clear picture of the data lifecycle in your business.

3. Review Your Data Protection Policies

Ensure your privacy notices and policies are up-to-date and in line with GDPR requirements. If they aren't, make the necessary changes.

4. Obtain Consent

Under GDPR, consent must be explicit, not implied. Make sure you have clear consent from individuals to process their data and keep a record of this consent.

5. Implement Data Protection Measures

This includes both technical measures (like encryption and firewalls) and organizational measures (such as staff training and access controls).

6. Prepare for Data Subject Requests

Under GDPR, individuals have the right to access their data, correct inaccuracies, and even request deletion. Ensure your systems can handle such requests efficiently.

7. Appoint a Data Protection Officer (DPO)

Depending on the nature and scale of your data processing activities, you may need to appoint a DPO to oversee data protection strategy and GDPR compliance.

8. Plan for Data Breaches

Have a plan in place to detect, report, and investigate a personal data breach. Remember, GDPR requires organizations to report certain types of data breaches within 72 hours.

Remember, GDPR compliance isn't a one-time event, but an ongoing commitment. Regularly review and update your practices to ensure they remain compliant.

Note: This guide is a general overview and doesn't constitute legal advice. For specific queries, consider consulting with a legal professional experienced in data protection laws.

What is CAN-SPAM?

The Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing Act (CAN-SPAM) is a US-based law that was enacted in 2003. Unlike GDPR, CAN-SPAM doesn't focus on personal data protection directly, but instead on the impact of unsolicited emails in individuals' inboxes.

Businesses sending emails to recipients in the US, regardless of where the company is situated, must comply with CAN-SPAM. This law has some strict requirements too, such as not using deceiving or misleading information in email headers or subject lines, offering an easy way to opt out of the mailing list, and honoring those decisions within ten days, among others. Violating CAN-SPAM requirements may result in enormous fines, so take compliance seriously.

Related Reading: 6 Tactics to Get New Email Subscribers

How to Stay Compliant with CAN-SPAM Regulations

Here's how you can ensure your business is compliant with CAN-SPAM regulations:

1. Avoid Misleading Header Information

Your "To," "From," "Reply-To," and routing information – including the originating domain name and email address – must be accurate and identify the person or business who initiated the message.

2. Use Truthful Subject Lines

The subject line must accurately reflect the content of the message.

3. Identify the Email as an Advertisement

The law gives you a lot of leeway in how to do this, but you must disclose clearly and conspicuously that your message is an advertisement.

4. Include Your Location

Your message must include your valid physical postal address. This can be your current street address, a post office box registered with the U.S. Postal Service or a private mailbox registered with a commercial mail-receiving agency established under Postal Service regulations.

5. Explain How to Opt-Out

Your message must include a clear and conspicuous explanation of how the recipient can opt out of getting an email from you in the future.

6. Honor Opt-Out Requests Promptly

Any opt-out mechanism you offer must be able to process opt-out requests for at least 30 days after you send your message. You must honor a recipient’s opt-out request within ten business days.

7. Monitor What Others Are Doing on Your Behalf

The law makes clear that even if you hire another company to handle your email marketing, you can’t contract away your legal responsibility to comply with the law. Both the company whose product is promoted in the message and the company that actually sends the message may be held legally responsible.

Remember, the CAN-SPAM Act is a law that provides rules for commercial email and commercial messages. It's crucial for your business to adhere to these guidelines to avoid any legal complications.

Note: This guide is a general overview and doesn't constitute legal advice. For specific queries, consider consulting with a legal professional experienced in CAN-SPAM Act regulations.

Email Marketing Best Practices for These Regulations

Email marketing compliance is more than following laws and regulations to avoid penalties and lawsuits; it's a fundamental element in building trust between a business and its customers. Here are some best practices to consider for implementation:

Obtain consent actively and maintain records: Document all efforts to obtain valid consent from subscribers or update opt-ins as information changes. Ensure proof of consent if ever required.

Keep subscribers informed: Regularly educate customers on how you follow privacy best practices. Announce any relevant updates to privacy policies; don't bury changes in the fine print. If you use third-party service providers, let subscribers know.

Respect subscribers who opt-out or don't provide consent: Cease all contact with customers who opt out. Don't send unsolicited emails or keep their data on file for longer than necessary after they unsubscribe.

Consider usability and accessibility: Email opt-in and opt-out processes should be simple and easily accessible. Make sure everyone, regardless of physical ability, can read emails sent by your business with the use of screen readers or voice-activated tech.

Stay Compliant with Your Marketing Emails

Once your visitors trust you, they’re one step closer to becoming customers, and with the robust regulations and compliance measures of the GDPR and CAN-SPAM, the trust you build can be well-earned and legitimate. Looking for more tips when it comes to growing your business? Subscribe to our weekly newsletter to stay informed!

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