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Navigating Email Compliance: A Guide for Small Businesses

Navigating Email Compliance: A Guide for Small Businesses
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When it comes to marketing outreach, email offers the most non-invasive medium. You can personalize interactions with clients to increase your sales and boost your revenue. 

Email marketing is an essential tool for startups and small businesses, from freelancers to print on demand stores, who want efficient marketing on a tight budget. It helps them bag their first client and grow, reaching more people. 

Even though email has tremendous power, the need to ensure compliance is non-negotiable. Any email marketing plan must include email compliance due to the growing importance of data protection and consent. Failure to comply may result in: 

  • Penalties
  • Damage a brand's reputation
  • Undermine consumer confidence

Read along to ensure that every email you send complies with regulations. We talk about all the regulations you need to know and the steps you need to take to maintain a compliant email marketing strategy.

Email Compliance Explained

Email compliance refers to how a company follows email communications rules and norms. Protecting the privacy, security, and integrity of sent and received emails requires following several data protection and anti-spam regulations. 

There is a legal need for businesses to archive all email conversations. Failure to record, preserve, and archive all company emails indicates non-adherence to email compliance rules and regulations. 

Everyone in the company is responsible for email security compliance, from the CEO to the IT staff to the new event planner. Here are details for the responsibilities of each department:

  • IT administrators should check that plans and policies for email retention are in place, including precise protocols for dealing with incoming messages.
  • System administrators should ensure the right archiving mechanisms are in place.
  • Compliance officials must follow all regulations for storing sensitive data and ensure it is kept for as long as feasible.
  • Employees must adhere to all corporate policies and use the designated enterprise communication channels exclusively.

However, keeping track of all compliance requirements is difficult because of the many laws that need attention. Additionally, there is a likelihood of variance among industries. To make it easier, we’ll discuss all the necessary laws to note in the upcoming sections.

What to remember:

  • Universal Responsibility: Every employee, from CEO to interns, must participate in ensuring email security and compliance.
  • Mandatory Archiving: Legally required to archive all email communications to meet data protection and anti-spam regulations.
  • Complex Regulations: Compliance varies by industry, acknowledging the challenge of navigating diverse legal requirements.

Why is Email Compliance Important for Small Businesses?

While email marketing compliance is complicated for businesses, it’s important. These rules and regulations protect customer’s right to safeguard their private and financial information. 

Governments worldwide enact laws on federal and state levels to avoid scams and data misuse without consent. These laws may vary from industry to industry, and some businesses may even require regular audits. Email compliance is important for businesses to avoid the repercussions of non-compliance, which may be especially devastating for small businesses. 

The non-compliance penalties may come with a financial burden for businesses making revenue from selling products, such as custom mugs or apparel companies. Additionally, a tarnished reputation may make building a steady client base difficult.

What to remember:

  • Protection of Privacy: Compliance ensures the protection of customer privacy and financial information.
  • Legal Variability: Laws vary by region and industry, sometimes requiring regular audits to prevent scams and data misuse.

The Components of Email Compliance

Businesses sending out bulk emails must know the strict rules to safeguard consumer privacy. These regulations stop them from getting unwanted communications.

To stay out of hot water with the law and protect your reputation, it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with the numerous requirements.

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

GDPR is a set of data protection laws of the European Union's information security policy, with specific email marketing and spam laws. The law recognizes the citizens of the EU as the data owners, not businesses storing the data. This means: 

  • Businesses can't use data for marketing purposes without first getting the data owner's opt-in authorization
  • They must maintain track of that consent
  • Companies must also comply with data owners' requests to transfer or erase personal information belonging to EU residents
  • A business must have stringent IT security measures and use confidentiality protections for all records, communications, and audits

Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing (CAN-SPAM)

The CAN-SPAM also establishes the parameters under which companies may participate in email marketing, like GDPR. Nonetheless, businesses don’t need opt-in permission to send messages.

This law offers recipients the right to stop receiving emails from businesses. This means there should be a clear opt-out option in emails. It also requires businesses to:

  • Not send misleading content
  • Not send emails with deceptive subject lines
  • Disclose the communication as a promotional email or advertising
  • Not include a postal address
  • Respect opt-out requests
  • Not track email marketing campaigns managed by other parties

Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL)

CASL fights spam and other associated problems by promoting the best standards in email marketing. The law prohibits spamming like the above two laws. Still, it imposes even stricter marketing regulations, such as:

  • Businesses must obtain clear “consent” from recipients for emails
  • "Consent" may be either implicit or explicit; subscribers without consent granted expressly need marketers to issue a one-time double opt-in request
  • All communications must provide a means for recipients to unsubscribe
  • Businesses must complete unsubscription requests within ten days

The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)

When it comes to marketing and privacy, businesses operating in California must adhere to the CCPA. Like GDPR and the other laws mentioned above, it gives: 

  • Individuals access to their personal data 
  • The right to have it erased or rectified if necessary

PII or PHI regulations

If your small business deals with Personal Identifiable Information (PII) or Protected Health Information (PHI), your regulatory duties revolve around safeguarding private data and ensuring confidentiality. Several reporting and security measures are part of this to ensure compliance with email privacy regulations, such as:

  • HIPAA for the healthcare industry
  • PCI DSS for the payment processing industry 
  • FedRAMP for businesses contracting work from the government

Due to these standards' stringent data security requirements, sending sensitive information over email is usually not a good idea unless you're using secure servers.

What to remember:

  • Consumer Privacy Protection: Bulk email senders must adhere to strict rules to protect consumer privacy and prevent unwanted communications.
  • Legal Compliance: GDPR, CAN-SPAM, CASL, and CCPA focus on consent, opt-out options, and transparent practices.
  • Sector-Specific Regulations: Businesses handling PII or PHI must comply with industry-specific regulations like HIPAA, PCI DSS, and FedRAMP, prioritizing data security and confidentiality.

Fines for noncompliance may range in amount and severity depending on the legislation in question. 

  • Violations of GDPR requirements can go as high as 20 million euros for severe violations
  • Violation of the CAN-SPAM Act can result in the Federal Trade Commission imposing penalties that may reach up to $50,1120 for each email violation, with no limit to the total number of violations
  • Companies face a maximum fine of CA$10 million per CASL infraction, while individuals face a maximum fine of CA$1 million
  • Just like CAN-SPAM, CCPA has an opt-out option instead of an opt-in. There are penalties ranging from $2,500 for each accidental infraction to $7,500 for each willful infringement
  • Depending on the kind and severity of the breach and if it has been repaired within a reasonable time period, penalties for HIPAA email violations may vary from $100 to $1.5 million

In addition to penalties, non-compliance risks businesses damage to their reputations, which may harm customer relationships and brand loyalty. This can be particularly difficult for online businesses, such as a Shopify print on demand store, that can’t build relationships in person and rely on online marketing. 

What to remember:

  • Risk of Non-Compliance: Penalties for non-compliance can lead to financial loss and damage to reputation, which can be especially harsh on small businesses.

How to Ensure Email Compliance

These regulations show that several levels of accountability and responsibility depend on the usage of email marketing. Whether for marketing or direct interaction, your compliance responsibilities will often include a range of scenarios, such as:

  • Protecting private data
  • Documenting, auditing, and reporting interactions 
  • Preventing and controlling unauthorized data disclosures
  • Retaining documentation as required by industry-specific regulations

Businesses need to set up email archiving mechanisms. Email archiving is the act of documenting and maintaining emails and electronic communications in a safe, readily accessible manner. 

Maintaining a copy of all of an organization's emails—incoming, outgoing, and internal—in a centralized location is useful for more than one reason:

  1. Stays in line with rules that mandate the retention of electronic communications
  2. Safeguards data from loss and helps with email recovery, 
  3. Accompanies eDiscovery demands in court proceedings. 
  4. Optimizes mailbox performance
  5. Regulates the number of emails kept on their email servers

We've outlined a step-by-step guide to help businesses ensure they follow all the laws and regulations while sending emails:

Step 1: Find out what you need to do to stay in compliance with regulations

Get to know the rules and regulations that govern your industry's email compliance with the assistance of your legal team.

Step 2: Look at email archiving solutions

Your emails will be securely stored and preserved by this technology, and you'll be able to find what you need quickly and easily.

Step 3: Consult with your legal department 

Involve your legal department at every stage, from brainstorming potential solutions to putting them into action. They can guarantee proper compliance and the implementation of the right archiving solution. 

Step 4: Educate your staff and provide clear protocols for compliance

Implement a course for compliance in your existing training program. Choose a method for documenting and sharing the processes with your team.

Step 5: Keep yourself updated 

The rules may change, and the laws can be amended. Always stay up-to-date with the most recent information and be aware of any industry-specific updates to email compliance by collaborating with your legal team.

What to remember: 

  • Compliance Across Scenarios: Address protecting private data, documenting interactions, and retaining documentation as per industry regulations.
  • Email Archiving Importance: Establish email archiving for data protection, legal readiness, and optimizing email server performance.
  • Step-by-Step Compliance Guide: From understanding regulations and consulting legal teams to educating staff and updating compliance measures, follow a structured approach for email compliance.

Tools and Solutions of Email Marketing

If you want to stay abreast of all the regulatory changes and ensure compliance, employ email marketing software that offers built-in compliance features. Several tools in the market offer several compliance features, such as: 

  • Managing consents
  • Data processing agreements
  • Secure data storage and encryption
  • Security assessments 
  • Legal and ethical language use

Here are some tools you may consider: 

  • Skrapp: It’s an email lookup or email finder tool that helps you obtain the email data of your prospects without any data compliance worries. Additionally, you can also try their LinkedIn email finder to gather details of your prospects while adhering to LinkedIn's data sharing rules.
  • MailerLite: Any company may benefit from MailerLite's robust email marketing features, no matter how big or small. It provides an adaptable and reasonably priced answer to all of your email marketing problems with features like integrations, automation, and landing page builder.
  • Omnisend: Omnisend is an easy-to-use and powerful platform that lets your sales and marketing teams create customized and highly targeted email and SMS messages that e-commerce customers love.
  • Brevo: Regardless of the size of your company, Brevo can help you engage with your clients more successfully with its complete marketing automation platform. Brevo provides an all-in-one marketing solution, including email marketing, SMS messaging, automated processes, and performance data.
  • AWeber: With AWeber, anyone can easily build and distribute a compelling email marketing campaign to subscribers. Expanding and engaging with your email list using AWeber's automation, landing page, and split testing tools is a breeze. 

Case Studies 

Several businesses out there leverage email marketing and archiving solutions to maintain compliance with the various laws we discussed above. For example:

  1. Sound Community Bank makes banking easy, accessible, and transparent by providing local accounts and services, state-of-the-art technology, and personalized attention. Financial regulations at the federal and state levels necessitate the preservation of communication. Sound Community Bank uses email archiving software to save 7 years of emails to meet regulatory requirements.
  2.  Given the stringent data-archiving regulations, RW Paul sought a comprehensive compliance solution for its business. They sought an effective solution in monitoring and digital archiving. RW Paul went with a comprehensive solution to store and track all communications via email and social media in addition to the company's website.


Continued adherence to regulations requires constant effort. To safeguard against legal and regulatory risks, preserve the integrity of communication, and guarantee business continuity, it is vital to archive email for compliance. 

Because laws change over time to reflect societal concerns, it is important to maintain an active relationship with regulatory authorities and monitor changes to compliance requirements. Additionally, like the above case studies, your business may choose an email marketing platform that maintains compliant email lists and conversations with regular monitoring and audits.