Marketing to the Global Inbox

With globalization and online marketers realizing the huge potential that expanding their efforts internationally has, it is of utmost importance to realize that what constitutes email best practices in one country is different than the other. However, there is one common denominator upon reviewing email marketing laws worldwide: opt-In.

Clearswift, has released a poll of over 1,200 business people around the world, concentrated in Germany, France, Australia, the United States, and the United Kingdom. The poll found that 84 percent of businesses are unaware of local spam laws.

The following is a synopsis on email marketing laws worldwide. (Please note this is the first review of a three-piece segment.)

The United States, United Kingdom, and Australia

The United States, United Kingdom, and Australia developed "The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU)," a common directive on privacy and electronic communications.

According to the memorandum, spam violations in all three countries constitutes:

  1. Sending commercial email containing deceptive content;
  2. Sending commercial email without providing the recipient with a means, such as a valid email address or an Internet based mechanism, to request that such communications cease;
  3. Sending commercial email that contains misleading information about the message initiator, or fails to disclose the sender's address; or
  4. Sending commercial email, when the recipient has specifically requested the sender not to do so.


Currently, there is no spam-specific national legislation in Canada although evaluation and recommendations are in process. Marketers interested in penetrating Canada should take a look at the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) which explains the restrictions placed on the collection of personal information online.


In recent years international trade issues with China have been contentious. However, when it comes to controlling the international flow of spam, China is very much on board.

According to the Chinese Ministry of Information, China is the world's 2nd largest producer of SPAM behind the United States. Thus, any effort to combat this costly nuisance requires a commitment from China. As of yet, China has no national legislation dealing with spam. However, the Chinese Ministry of Information is working on developing such regulations. Perhaps more importantly, China has declared its commitment to make its best efforts to fight spam and cooperate with other signatories when it signed the London Action Plan on Spam Enforcement Collaboration -- a U.S. and U.K. led international effort to combat spam -- on July 20, 2005.
According to UK Ecommerce Minister Alun Michael,

"China engaged constructively in the Asia-Europe Meeting on ecommerce in London in February. We have long been keen to engage with China on the issue of spam, in particular because China is probably the second biggest source of spam in the world. As China reaches the 100 million internet users mark, we welcome this opportunity to work with China to make the internet safer for users."

Another important development is the increasing efforts made by private parties to address the problem of spam. First, there is the Internet Society of China which includes all of China's largest ISPs (internet service providers) whose members are bound by its "standards for web-based public email service" which requires policies against spam and rates ISPs partly based on spam ratios.

On Sep 2, 2004, the ISC and eBay/MS/America Online/Yahoo! signed a Memorandum of Understanding, which is an agreement to explore areas of cooperation in protecting users from spam, developing anti-spam technology, promoting public education about spam, and promoting the punishment of spammers. Additionally, the ISC and the Internet Industry Association (IIA), an Australian agency, signed an agreement to help manage spam, reduce the inappropriate blacklisting of ISPs and minimize the effects on internet users' ability to send and receive emails.


When it comes to email laws, Japan is an interesting country.

According to Toshihiko Shibuya, deputy director of the Telecommunications Consumer Policy Division in the Ministry of Interior Affairs and Communications (MIC), "around 73 percent of all spam in Japan is sent to mobile phones and about 80 percent of that is from dating agencies." Due to this, the government is currently revising the anti-spam law passed in April 2002 titled "The Law on Regulation of Transmission of Specified Electronic Mail"

The law defines "Specified Electronic Mail," as email sent for advertisement purposes of sender's business to individual users." Advertisers, or email marketing companies that deploy on their behalf, are required to comply with the following "obligations of labeling for senders of specified electronic mail:

  • Identification as specified electronic mail
  • Senders name and address, senders email address, opt-out email address
  • Administrative Orders by Minister to publicize the law (As of July 1, Japanese legislation requires senders of email advertising to attach messages telling receivers the email is unsolicited advertising and how to reject any future ads).

At the end of the day, whether it is in China, the U.K., or U.S., responsible email marketing adheres to the same key elements:

  1. Marketers are required to use the opt-in approach
  2. Prohibition against using false or misleading transmission information
  3. Prohibition against using randomly generated or harvested addresses
  4. Prohibition against relaying email from computers without authorization

Please stay tuned for next week as I explore The Global Inbox in Korea, Spain, Malaysia, and Germany.

Elizabeth M. Lloyd is Chief Marketing Officer of DMO Global, Inc. a leading affiliate network solely dedicated to serving international and multicultural markets. Lloyd's work on international online marketing has been highlighted in numerous publications as well as in academic curricula for MBA programs worldwide. DMO Global is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Dragon Media Online, Inc., an international media and technology company.