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Unread 10-22-2012, 12:52 PM   #1
Kal
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Default Advice on spam laws in different countries

I'm hoping to set up a small business offering stuff like freelance web design. Part of the way I was hoping to get clients was going to be finding websites that could do with updating and emailing them an offer.

I've come to realise that even though these emails would be very personalised, done manually, and on a small scale, as it is unsolicited it could well be classed as spam.

I was hoping to contact websites in the Major English speaking countries, ie: USA, UK, Canada, etc. Can anyone tell me if this would be acceptable in any of those countries?

In countries where not allowed would someone doing such small sends like this likely fly under the radar and at worst have their IP put on a spam list?

Also, a lot of the websites I would want to contact will have online forms instead of email addresses, if I contact them through online forms do spam laws still apply?

Thanks in advance
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Unread 10-23-2012, 12:55 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kal View Post
I've come to realise that even though these emails would be very personalised, done manually, and on a small scale, as it is unsolicited it could well be classed as spam.
Hi Kal,

If it's unsolicited, it's spam. This isn't your call or my call, it's the recipient who decides that regardless of any law. ISPs and ESPs will shut abusers down to protect their reputation. If they consider your email spam (and anyone I know would, based on what you're saying here) and enough people hit that spam button, you'll be on a blacklist or blocked by your email service provider or possibly worse.

I would also strongly recommend that when it comes to legal issues, you not seek advice on a forum. It's just a bad idea in general.

Regards,
jim

Community Manager @ GetResponse email marketing. Check out the GetResponse Blog here!
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Unread 10-23-2012, 02:57 PM   #3
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Don't worry, I'm just looking for more knowledgeable people to point me in the right direction, I won't be taking anything said here as legally binding.

Found this about UK law which I found interesting:

"The rules on emails don't apply to emails sent to organisations, though you must still identify yourself and provide an address."
Email & Postal Marketing - Sector Guide for Organisations - ICO

This makes it sound like an unsolicited email to a company, which is what I'm planning on doing, would be acceptable, doesn't it?

As for it essentially being down to whether the user clicks the spam button or not, I'm confident that if I come across as someone who has had a proper look at their site and has a genuine offer, they will at worst just ignore my email. And I'll take the risk that my domain/IP could get blacklisted if people are more anal about reporting spam than I suspect they are.

It would appear similar loopholes do not exist for US or Canada though, does anyone know of any? Or Australia?
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Unread 10-23-2012, 03:08 PM   #4
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Kal,

Here is a good resource on the North American Spam Laws: The Inbox Project | LII / Legal Information Institute

There are also a number of articles here you can review: AntiSpam - EmailKarma.net

These should give you a good start on understanding the relevant laws.

Email address, Contact form - typically they are the same thing as the form is usually delivered to the recipient via email so all the relevant laws would apply.

~ Matt V
EmailKarma.net: It's not the size of your list, it's how you use it!

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Unread 10-24-2012, 09:17 AM   #5
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Thanks Matt, I'll check those links out

I see your point about the contact forms, but I don't see how any laws would be enforceable when I have no way of knowing how their back end handles the contact form stuff, maybe it just puts it in a table for them to view when they log in?

Also, even if it was sent to their email, the spam button JimD mentioned would be useless, as the email would have come from their own server, so they'd essentially be accusing themselves of spamming. I suppose they could contact a spam watch dog and give them the domain of my site though
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Unread 10-24-2012, 04:30 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kal View Post
I see your point about the contact forms, but I don't see how any laws would be enforceable when I have no way of knowing how their back end handles the contact form stuff, maybe it just puts it in a table for them to view when they log in?
The Canadian Anti-Spam law is technology neutral - so regardless of the delivery channel the Commercial Nature of the Electronic message will determine if the law applies. In this case a contact form would be protected by the legislation. As are comment forms on blogs, Social networks, IM clients, email addresses, etc... anything that would be considered an electronic address could be covered.

~ Matt V
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Unread 10-24-2012, 05:43 PM   #7
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Yes you're quite right, I was being a bit naive there, of course if they make legislation like this they are nowadays going to be careful to make it will cover and type of electronic communication.

I had a look at your links though, and found something interesting in the actual act they have passed to cover these things in Canada:

Quote:
7. (1) It is prohibited to send or cause or permit to be sent to an electronic address a commercial electronic message unless
(a) the person to whom the message is sent has consented to receiving it, whether the consent is express or implied; and
(b) the message complies with subsection (2).

Quote:
Implied consent ó section 7
(9) Consent is implied for the purpose of section 7 only if
...
(b) the person to whom the message is sent has conspicuously published, or has caused to be conspicuously published, the electronic address to which the message is sent, the publication is not accompanied by a statement that the person does not wish to receive unsolicited commercial electronic messages at the electronic address and the message is relevant to the personís business, role, functions or duties in a business or official capacity;
House Government Bill - C-28, Royal Assent (40-3)

That seems pretty clear that as long as the address I'm emailing is listed on the contact page of their website, and doesn't say "No unsolicited emails", I would be allowed to contact them to offer web design services. Does that make sense, or am I overlooking something?
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Unread 10-24-2012, 05:50 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kal View Post
That seems pretty clear that as long as the address I'm emailing is listed on the contact page of their website, and doesn't say "No unsolicited emails", I would be allowed to contact them to offer web design services. Does that make sense, or am I overlooking something?
This is the important thing to note with this passage:

"and the message is relevant to the personís business, role, functions or duties in a business or official capacity"

Your message has to be targeted to the individuals Official Function at the receiving end... Just because you find the address on the website and it doesn't say - no commercial email doesn't give free access to send them promotions - the recipient's job function needs to be inline with the message you are sending them. Webmaster might fit your definition for web design services where as anything else (Sales/marketing/info/postmaster/contact etc...) would not be specific enough to pass the same test.

Be very careful with assuming the recipients job function if you choose to rely on this type of contact strategy.

~ Matt V
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Unread 10-24-2012, 06:53 PM   #9
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I think you might be interpreting that sentence too strictly, the various possibilities being separated by an "or" says to me that as long as the content of my message complies with one of the options it would be acceptable.

So I would cut all bar the first possibility off the sentence, leaving:

"and the message is relevant to the personís business"

I think comments about some problems with their website and an offer to fix them would easily fall into the category of relevant to their business. It's not like I'm trying to sell them dick pills.

But I will of course get some proper legal advice on the definition before I send any emails which put me at risk.
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Unread 10-24-2012, 09:28 PM   #10
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The government and enforcement agencies will likely read it as I've described it, this has been part of our privacy law (PIPEDA) in a very similar wording for over a decade and is only being reinforced in the anti-spam law.

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