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Is it Illegal to Email Someone Without Their Permission?

is it illegal to email someone without their permission
Is it illegal to email someone without their permission? The first step to building a successful audience is to get permission from contacts who want to receive your email marketing campaigns.

Is it illegal to email someone without their permission

While many email marketers have the best of intentions when it comes to obtaining the clear permission of people they want to email, their inexperience with or reluctance to getting a program started can cause both permission and data to age. But there’s a more serious degree of this problem in which permission is not simply lax or questionable, it is ignored altogether. Hence our conundrum for this month.

The first step to building a successful audience is to get permission from contacts who want to receive your email marketing campaigns. Permission is not only common courtesy, it’s required by our Terms of Use.

How we define permission

Although people talk about permission in a variety of ways, it’s something very specific when it comes to email marketing. Permission is express, verifiable consent to receive marketing communication. Express means that when you asked for permission, your question wasn’t tied in with another agreement. For example, a separate checkbox for “I would like to receive marketing email from XYZ company” is express and clear.

Because permission should also be verifiable, we recommend getting written or otherwise archived permission from each contact. When you use signup forms, we track and record the date and time of submission, so you have verified permission.

People who haven’t given you permission are more likely to report your email campaigns as spam, and less likely to engage with your campaigns or make purchases.

Consequences without permission

People who haven’t given you permission are more likely to report your email campaigns as spam, and less likely to engage with your campaigns or make purchases. It’s in your best interest to always secure express permission.

Spam reports can lead to aggressive spam filtering or blacklisting, which makes it impossible for some subscribers to receive any of your campaigns. This can also damage company’s reputation as a whole and negatively affect delivery for all our users.

Spam reports

When someone reports an email as spam, their inbox notifies their internet service provider (ISP) that the message in question looks suspicious. The ISP then tracks how many people on their network report emails from the sending domain as spam.

Unfortunately, a majority of email users report that they mark emails as spam that they know aren’t spam. Some of these spam reports may actually be attempts to unsubscribe, so it’s important that all of your email campaigns include an unsubscribe link your subscribers can easily find.

Your recipients are also more likely to mark your emails as spam if they’re not familiar with your company. Studies also show 43 percent of email users will report spam if they don’t recognize the sender’s From name or From email address. Make sure these labels are clearly tied to your brand, and send campaigns regularly so subscribers don’t forget who you are. You should always include a permission reminder in your email campaign footer.

Also read: Understanding Permission

Spam filters

Spam complaints aren’t the only way you can get blacklisted by an ISP. Aggressive spam filters may detect sloppy code or “spammy” content, and flag your email campaigns. There are no all-encompassing guidelines on what content to avoid, but in general we recommend you design your campaigns to be clean, clear, and balanced.

In a worst-case scenario, a firewall could be programmed to scan any campaign content for URLs that have been reported as spam or blacklisted, and block the email that contains them. That means that if another person or business mentions one of your blacklisted domains in their totally separate email, the ISP could block that user’s emails too.

Increasingly, ISPs and anti-spam services share their records with each other. If you get reported to one, you could be blocked from others as well.

A few spam reports could get you blocked. Once you’re on a blacklist, it’s very difficult to get yourself removed.


If enough people mark your email campaigns as spam, the ISP can blacklist you. When that happens, any message you send to anyone on their network will be blocked. ISPs have different thresholds for blacklisting, but they tend to be very low. A few spam reports could get you blocked. Once you’re on a blacklist, it’s very difficult to get yourself removed.

A few complaints can derail your email marketing for a long time, so it’s critical to ensure your email marketing is permission-based and that your permission doesn’t go stale.

Also Read: Top 11 Ultimate Cold Calling Guidelines To Boost Your Sales

What you can do

To ensure a healthy audience, always secure permission before you send someone email campaigns. Never assume you have permission, and when in doubt, get confirmation.

Make sure your contact collection methods are compliant with our Terms of Use and never send unsolicited marketing campaigns. We strongly recommend you use our signup forms so you have a record of each person’s signup.

Remember that any list of contacts obtained from a third-party source, no matter how reputable, violates our Terms and puts you at risk. Plus, the numbers show that a purchased audience is a useless audience, so permission is also important to your ROI.

Also read: 8 Steps to Make Sure your Email Marketing is Legal



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We have assisted numerous companies to prepare proper and accurate reports to PDPC to minimise financial penalties.


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