How to write a compliant marketing email

This article will help you create a compliant marketing email that complies with data privacy requirements in the EU, UK and USA

General requirements for all marketing emails

In order to be compliant with data privacy laws in the EU, UK and USA every marketing email should contain the below information:

  1. Accurate header information
    • 'From' and 'To' routing information, including the originating domain name and e-mail address must be accurate
    • Identify the sender, and, if applicable, the person on whose behalf the message is sent or if sent on behalf of multiple persons, such as affiliates, all these persons must be identified in the email
    • Include contact information for the sender or the person/persons on whose behalf the message is sent
  2. Truthful subject lines and email content
    • Subject lines must accurately represent the content of the email
    • The subject line and the content of the email must not be deceptive or misleading
  3. Identify the email as an advertisement
    • A specific means of doing this is not outlined so there is a lot of leeway in how to do this, but the disclosure must be “clear and conspicuous”
    • Usually, the subject line of a commercial email makes it clear that the email is an advertisement and not a transactional message – for e.g. “20% now off Product X!”
  4. Include a valid physical postal address
    • To inform the recipient of where the sender is located and to which the recipient can send a request to stop sending them marketing emails
  5. Include an unsubscribe or opt out option in every email
    • So the recipient can easily unsubscribe whenever they want, free of charge

Additional requirements for marketing emails based on legitimate interest or the soft opt in

For customers located in the EEA or UK

If you are sending marketing emails to customers in the EEA and or UK based on legitimate interest and the soft opt in (where they were presented with the chance to opt out when they bought a product and did not opt out), ensure that the products/services you market to them:

  1. are your own (not from a third party)
  2. similar to the products/services that they bought

For customers located in Greece

Be clear about the commercial nature of the email in the subject of the email.  In the guidance from the Greek supervisory authority they say that in the case of e-mail messages concerning the commercial promotion of goods or services, the sender is obliged (according to PD 131/2003 concerning legal issues of information society services in the internal market) to state the commercial nature of the content in the subject of the message.

For customers located in Belgium

Be clear about why they are receiving the marketing email. The Belgian supervisory authority recommends including a sentence like:

"You are receiving this communication because you have recently purchased our products. If you no longer wish to receive such communications and want us to stop processing your personal data for our direct marketing purposes, please click here"

While similar to an unsubscribe option this link is more explicit in that the person unsubscribes and also wants the company to stop processing their personal data for any form of direct marketing purposes.

Additional requirement for customers located in Connecticut, USA

If sending a marketing email to an individual in Connecticut who you do not have an existing business relationship with, or their consent to send them commercial messages, it is required to begin the subject line with the letters “ADV”.


Disclaimer:  The contents of this article are for informational purposes only, and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your legal counsel to obtain advice with respect to any particular issues or problems.