Direct marketers know about the benefits of email marketing. However, they also have to be familiar with legal guidelines. Those can differ from country to country. We have summarized the most important aspects for Germany and Switzerland.
Apart from damaging a brand's reputation, unlawful emails can have costly legal consequences. That is why every marketer using email marketing should be familiar with the guidelines applying to individual countries.
Email Marketing in Germany
In general, mails that contain marketing content require consent by the recipient. This consent has to fulfill various aspects:
The recipient has to be informed regarding the content of the mails as well as whom and for what purpose he is sharing his data. The consent only applies to companies that are named. If the consent included third parties, these parties have to be identified as well. Transparency also includes the type of media for which the recipient gives consent, meaning that consenting to emails only means emails and not letters or phone calls.
Transparency also applies to the actual emails as well: subject lines must not be misleading and the sender has to be easily identifiable.
Subscribing to a newsletter only requires an email address. Businesses usually ask for names as well so that they can personalize their email communication. However, all data other than the email address should be entered on a voluntary basis, meaning that entering other information should not be obligatory.
Type of consent
Consent can be given electronically. However, the business has to be able to prove that consent has been given. Subscribers also have to be able to access and revoke their consent.
Due to this obligation to produce proof, companies usually use the double-opt-in process. After users enter their data into the subscription form, they receive an email containing a link they have to click to verify their subscription. Contrary to popular belief, the double-opt-in process is not obligatory. However, in practice it is the best way to ensure legal compliance. By the way: this verification mail should not contain any advertising messages as this could be considered unlawful advertising in court.
People can also subscribe to a newsletter via telephone or personal contact. However, oral consent does not comply with the obligation to produce proof. Hence businesses asking people to subscribe to their newsletter at a trade fare should also obtain some form of written consent.
Opt-out processes such as unchecking a box are illegal.
Email Marketing in Switzerland
Mass mailing are also regulated by the law in Switzerland.
Transparency is obligatory in Switzerland as well: Companies have to state for what purpose exactly they need the data from their users. The sender of the emails has to be easily identifiable, too.
The opt-in process is obligatory. Recipient have to actively consent to receiving emails from a company. Even though the double-opt-in process is not legally required as well, most businesses have adopted this approach. This also has practical reasons: by using double-opt-in, brands ensure that they market to people who are really interested in their messages.
Users have to be able to unsubscribe from a newsletter in a way that neither costs them trouble or money. Therefore, make it easy for them to get off your list.