This topic typically refers to US law but needs to be addressed internationally as well. Based on that experience, let us answer this question by differentiating the rule of law from customer perception, ISP/filtering software and blacklist providers, and then the differences internationally.

Can Spam Law
After 11 years, there are still great misunderstandings about the US CAN SPAM law. This law did not make unsolicited emailing illegal contrary to many people who misunderstand it. It actually provides the guidelines required to legally send unsolicited emails. The basics of this include: data sourcing methods cannot use computer generated algorithms and programs to scrape web sites (commonly referred to as crawlers, bots and spiders) or randomly generating email format matches; cannot use deceptive email subject headers (this is highly subjective and basically means you can’t trick people into thinking you have a relationship established to influence them to open the email), but also that the email header should not be a direct advertisement (also highly subjective; email reply must go to an actual email id; must have an automated opt-out that is handled within 72 hours (it has become common to allow a manual unsubscribe based on email recipient reply; the sender of the emails must include a valid physical location; the unsubscribe must be for all the divisions of brands of the sending entity but is specific to the contact requesting unsubscribe. That is the essence of the law.

Customer Perception
After more than a decade, most customers are used to receiving hundreds of unsolicited emails per day and how to deal with it. Most delete and ignore the emails of no interest, or have email software setting to filter out senders not in your address book, or higher probabilities that it is an unwanted email by some set of rules that may quarantine the incoming email to junk mail or even forward a Report Spam message to the ISP.

It is interesting to note that generally now, if a customer receives an email of interest, then it is not spam. If they are not interested, then it may be considered spam. These perceptions have nothing to do with the law itself but can elevate to rage and anger on the wrong day or from repeated abuse.

ISP/Filtering software/Blacklist Providers
In previous careers, our executives have been involved in disputes about the subjective and random nature of these providers that may unnecessarily create a domain and brand problem for an email sender and even cause a blacklist for the domain. To be sure, some cases are warranted but also to be clear, many cases are unwarranted and initiated as part of a procedure to justify their own existence in the market and prove they are needed to protect customers. In other words, emails can be selected out randomly for no good reason as a way to show their customer that they are doing their job. Unfortunately there are few if any laws that protect email senders from these malicious and unethical attacks. These preventative companies that are in the business to protect their customers have their own policies that have nothing whatsoever to do with the letter of the law for legal compliancy. They set up their own rules to determine what is allowable in sending emails to their customers. In fact, many of these providers are offshore and as such, not subject to US law anyway and very difficult to communicate with in a rational way.

The email sender’s biggest fear is that their emailing will cause their domain to be blacklisted, which means the web site will go offline temporarily, usually for a few days. But after that, the domain is reinstated, of course only after the consternation, embarrassment and potential harm that is done to your brand. As a result, many email senders today outsource the email sending process to a third party to prevent brand issues, or if it is done in-house, they will typically use a separate landing page that does not impact their main brand and web site. Many customers will not do unsolicited emailing for these very concerns about their brand and have little alternatives to use emails in any way for business development. Please understand that an email sender can completely comply with the letter of the law and one of these blacklist scenarios could still take place, although the likelihood is low.

It used to be the case that the US law was the most restrictive for emailing. That is hardly the case now. Perhaps the most restrictive now is the Canadian CASL law, which essentially makes it illegal to send ANY emails, customer or unsolicited, unless you have written record of a permission statement from the customer, dated, and saying it is okay to send them emails. Several years ago one of our principals was onsite with several Canadian customers evaluating and investing the details and options associated with the law. It is indeed extremely difficult to address. That is not to say that the practice of unsolicited emails into Canada has evaporated but rather that it is merely illegal. As a result, telemarketing and direct mail and digital marketing have ramped up significantly.

Besides Canada, Germany and Australia are also particularly tough on email sending. Further, on a country by country basis, some countries have data sourcing laws that require opt-in emails. However, it is near impossible that the data providers will have the ability to identify the opt-in source of every email address, and further, the original opt-in source may be several sources removed and is not likely the data provider themselves and certainly not the customer. So the intent of the law is never met anyway.

All that said, any company who does not use email marketing to solicit new business leads is missing out on a large opportunity as email is still the preferred communication by top executives in every yearly marketing Sherpa study, as well as email marketing is the top ROI mentioned in all surveys. It provides immediate results, lower costs, and a more convenient method of frequent communications at a relatively low cost. That is why to this day, the data services and list acquisition business is still in a high growth mode. Just be sure to select a vendor with quality guarantees, selection, and competitive pricing.

Author's Bio: 

George Krishton having over 5 years of experience into content writing, wrote articles globally for small and medium size business.