Sending Unsolicited E-mail Across State Borders?

by Monthy
17 replies
Hello everyone,

I have a question about sending unsolicited e-mail of commercial nature.

In particular, I am referring to the fact that most countries regulate the sending of unsolicited e-mail. I would like to know whether any of you have studied the law in this regard and whether you could share with me anything related to this matter. I personally reside in the Czech Republic and the national law here must be in compliance with the law of the EU. The law of the EU says in one of its directives (namely the EC Directive) that one must obtain permission of the recipient of the message before the promotional message can be sent. Even though national legal systems vary across the EU, I believe this is the case in most EU countries.

The situation in the USA is quite different, though, as it is possible and legal to send unsolicited e-mail to citizens of the USA but there are certain restrictions that the e-mail message must be compliant with. These are set by the CAN-SPAM Act. For example, the title of the e-mail may not be deceptive, the person must not hide the fact that the e-mail is promotional, etc.

I was wondering whether you could share with me any tips or any pieces of knowledge you possess on this matter.

Also, I would like to ask the lawyers active on the Warrior Forum, which regulation/law would be applicable in a situation where a Czech citizen would reach out to American businesses with a promotional offer (offering his or her product or service). The promotional e-mail would come from the Czech Republic to the inbox of a citizen of the USA or a U.S. company. Would, in such a situation, be the CAN-SPAM Act applicable? Or would Czech law be used instead?

Best regards,
Monthy
#borders #email #sending #state #unsolicited
  • Profile picture of the author Steve B
    As you probably know, legal issues get cloudy to lay citizens when you're speaking about activities across national borders.

    The best advice I can give is to seek competent professional legal assistance.

    It would seem to me, if your build a list of opt-in subscribers to your web site, you can contact them in confidence regardless of where they reside.

    Yes, it takes some work and some time, but it's the way most businesses get their start in Internet marketing.

    Steve
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    • Profile picture of the author webmarketer
      Not a lawyer.

      To my understanding, spam is spam (or call it unsolicited email in the guise of relationship email marketing) wherever it comes from. If you send emails to the US, one has to abide by CAN SPAM. If an email fails, it goes to the spam inbox. If you are a repeat offender, your IP and domain get toasted by spam monitoring sites and email providers. You can't apply Czech laws since your email recipient is not in Czechoslovakia.
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  • Profile picture of the author Monthy
    Thanks Steve and Webmarketer for responding to my thread. Highly appreciated!

    Do you think it is necessary to take into consideration the TOS of the hosting service provider that provides hosting for my sites, even if I make sure that everything I do is in total compliance with the law?

    In other words, do you think it is possible the hosting company could want something of me in the TOS that is not imposed by the law?
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    • Profile picture of the author BigFrank
      Banned
      Originally Posted by Monthy View Post

      In other words, do you think it is possible the hosting company could want something of me in the TOS that is not imposed by the law?
      Most definitely! Unless you are on a private server account, they probably forbid what you want to do because it utilizes too high a level of their server resources.

      Cheers. - Frank
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  • Profile picture of the author The Cypher
    Hosting companies will be the only thing holding you back. As someone who lives outside the US, its very hard for US laws to come full.circle and get you into any trouble.

    The issue is your SMTP or hosting will cut you off because the bulk of their income is from the US or they are based in the US. Read the ToS (gasp I know right) and you'll understand what you can and cannot do.
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  • Profile picture of the author Monthy
    Thanks again for replying to me.

    I have checked the ToS of a few SMTP providers, as well as some of the best-known hosting providers, and none of them actually allow me send UCE (unsolicited commercial email).

    It seems that it is completely legal for me to send email to non-subscribers as per the CAN-SPAM, however, there does not seem to be a company that would accept it.

    Even though many people would think of such e-mail as spam, I don't think of it this way. The emails would lead to the inboxes of highly targeted potential customers. I would be offering my services to people who I KNOW need them (their own businesses rely on them). The thing is, they might already have a provider of such services or they might be doing the work themselves.

    Nevertheless, I think many of them would be interested. Do you have experience with using an SMTP or a hosting provider/email service provider for the purpose of sending electronic mail to non-subscribers and not getting your account abolished?

    I am talking tens, or maybe 100 emails per day at most, so it is not some kind of gigantic mass blast type of email marketing campaign.

    Monthy
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    • Profile picture of the author Joan Altz
      Originally Posted by Monthy View Post


      I am talking tens, or maybe 100 emails per day at most, so it is not some kind of gigantic mass blast type of email marketing campaign.

      Monthy
      I would really discourage you from doing that by any type of automation. If you really are going to only be sending tens and up to 100 a day, then just do it manually, and use the business sites' own contact form to do it when you can.

      Personally, however, I can tell you that you will have much more success doing cold calling than sending unsolicited emails.
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      • Profile picture of the author Monthy
        Originally Posted by kilgore View Post

        Take the legal issues out of it. Whether or not it's true, let's just go with the assumption that either (a) it's legal for you to do what you want to do or (b) because you live outside of the US, it's unlikely you'll get prosecuted. (I'm not saying I agree with the above, but let's just ignore the legal arguments for the time being.)

        But the legal issues aren't the only problems with your plan.

        There's also a concept some of us use to judge our plans and ideas called ethics. As in, yeah, maybe what I'm doing is legal, but is it right? You seem to think your email won't be spam because some of your targets might be interested in your offer. But how is that different from any other spam whether it's a penis enlargement solicitation or a phishing scam? Clearly some of the targets are interested in the offer or these large spam houses wouldn't be operating. But the definition of spam has nothing to do with whether people are interested in the product. It's called unsolicited commercial email for a reason, so if it is (a) unsolicited, (b) commercial and (c) and email, it's spam. Period. And regardless of how great you might think your lists and offer are, even great email campaigns would be absolutely thrilled to get a 10% conversion rate, which means that at least 9 out of 10 people are going to be likely to press that spam button when the get your message.

        Speaking of that spam button, apart from ethics, you have another problem: technical issues. You're absolutely right that nobody wants to touch your UCE, from SMTP services to VPS providers. And there's a good reason for that: they want their own mail to continue to be delivered. Because there's often more that happens when someone hits that spam button than just deleting the email. Usually that email is reported to various anti-spam services. It's then might be parsed for the content or the sender, and it'll certainly track the SMTP servers that delivered it. And if these SMTP servers cause enough problems, they'll get a red flag next to them which will make it harder for the messages to get delivered -- perhaps even completely banning them in some cases (though it's always up to the email provider to decide what action -- if any -- to take).

        What that means is that even if there were no legal issues, even if there were no ethical issues, and even if you could find a provider who would let you set up your own SMTP servers, your plan still probably wouldn't work because you'd have a hard time getting your messages delivered. At first, your messages would be scrutinized (or filtered) because they were coming from an unknown, untrusted SMTP server. Later, they'd likely be blocked because of all your spam complaints.

        My feeling on spam is that if your offer is that good, there are better ways to reach out to potential leads than one that will most likely piss them off -- even if they're interested in your product. On the other hand, if your offer isn't that good, spamming is probably not going to give you much benefit anyway.
        Hello Kilgore,

        I value your opinion and thank you for your rather long reply. Could you please elaborate on some of the better ways how to contact your potential leads?

        Originally Posted by Joan Altz View Post

        I would really discourage you from doing that by any type of automation. If you really are going to only be sending tens and up to 100 a day, then just do it manually, and use the business sites' own contact form to do it when you can.

        Personally, however, I can tell you that you will have much more success doing cold calling than sending unsolicited emails.
        Hello Joan,

        Thanks for the input. Do you have personal experience with cold calling? I thought it is somewhat prohibited in the U.S. if the business is on a do-not-call list (I can't remember how exactly the list is called).
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        • Profile picture of the author Kay King
          In the US there is a do-not-call lis t- but businesses would NOT be on it. You don't open a business with a contact number and then list it as "do not call". Think about it. The "do not call" is used by individuals.

          What you should do is ADVERTISE your product or service aimed at BUSINESSES you think need that service. We're talking paid ads - could even include a mailer if you want.

          Spending a lot of time worrying about legalities may be time wasted anyway. Even if you could send the emails - would anyone read them? Instead of a focus on "how to send emails" you should consider "how to attract people who would be interested".

          It's doubtful emails sent from your location to businesses in the US would arrive in "in boxes" or be opened by many at all. Much better to promote the product you have - so that businesses know it exists and can sign up to receive information about it.

          If you have a site and ads to promote your business/service/product with a signup for people to get more information about it - you won't have problems finding an email service that will send out the information/sales spiel.
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          • Profile picture of the author Monthy
            Originally Posted by Kay King View Post

            In the US there is a do-not-call lis t- but businesses would NOT be on it. You don't open a business with a contact number and then list it as "do not call". Think about it. The "do not call" is used by individuals.

            What you should do is ADVERTISE your product or service aimed at BUSINESSES you think need that service. We're talking paid ads - could even include a mailer if you want.

            Spending a lot of time worrying about legalities may be time wasted anyway. Even if you could send the emails - would anyone read them? Instead of a focus on "how to send emails" you should consider "how to attract people who would be interested".

            It's doubtful emails sent from your location to businesses in the US would arrive in "in boxes" or be opened by many at all. Much better to promote the product you have - so that businesses know it exists and can sign up to receive information about it.

            If you have a site and ads to promote your business/service/product with a signup for people to get more information about it - you won't have problems finding an email service that will send out the information/sales spiel.
            Hi Kay King,

            Thanks for your valuable input, too. From your response I do not get whether you are a proponent of cold calling or whether you are against it. Judging my how long you have been a WF member, surely you must have lots of experience and therefore I would love to know your opinion on cold calling and its effectiveness.

            In terms of the way the contact is made, I do not see much difference between cold calling and UCE. The contact is not solicited in either of the cases, the only difference I see based on the responses from you guys is that cold calling should have much better "deliverability" - if that word can be used in this context, too. By that I mean more people would pick up the phone than read an unsolicited email message, in my opinion.

            Do you think this can be effectively outsourced? Are you aware of any service provider that can do cold calling effectively and reliably?

            Also, I have read on another forum that when you call a business using a phone number they listed either on their website or in a business directory, it sometimes can, in fact, be a personal number and in that case the owner of that number might complain that I am contacting them at their personal number when the purpose of the call is commercial. This is actually deceptive but I know there is a sort of person who would be capable of that. Do you have any piece of advice how to protect yourself from that happening and potentially being sued?

            Best regards,
            Monthy
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  • Profile picture of the author Monthy
    Hi guys,

    I do have an additional question related to this topic:

    When deciding whether the CAN-SPAM Act should be used in a given situation, does the lawyer take into consideration only the location of the recipient of the email and not the server that receives the email?

    For example, let's say I'm sending email from Europe to somebody in the USA. I think CAN-SPAM would apply in that situation. But what if the receiving email server of the ISP of the person located in the USA is, in fact, located in Brazil, for example - would CAN-SPAM still apply? Or would it mean Brazilian law would be used?

    Best regards,
    Monthy
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    Free thanks to anyone who replies to me. :)

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    • Profile picture of the author kilgore
      Originally Posted by Monthy View Post

      Hi guys,

      I do have an additional question related to this topic:

      When deciding whether the CAN-SPAM Act should be used in a given situation, does the lawyer take into consideration only the location of the recipient of the email and not the server that receives the email?

      For example, let's say I'm sending email from Europe to somebody in the USA. I think CAN-SPAM would apply in that situation. But what if the receiving email server of the ISP of the person located in the USA is, in fact, located in Brazil, for example - would CAN-SPAM still apply? Or would it mean Brazilian law would be used?

      Best regards,
      Monthy
      Take the legal issues out of it. Whether or not it's true, let's just go with the assumption that either (a) it's legal for you to do what you want to do or (b) because you live outside of the US, it's unlikely you'll get prosecuted. (I'm not saying I agree with the above, but let's just ignore the legal arguments for the time being.)

      But the legal issues aren't the only problems with your plan.

      There's also a concept some of us use to judge our plans and ideas called ethics. As in, yeah, maybe what I'm doing is legal, but is it right? You seem to think your email won't be spam because some of your targets might be interested in your offer. But how is that different from any other spam whether it's a penis enlargement solicitation or a phishing scam? Clearly some of the targets are interested in the offer or these large spam houses wouldn't be operating. But the definition of spam has nothing to do with whether people are interested in the product. It's called unsolicited commercial email for a reason, so if it is (a) unsolicited, (b) commercial and (c) and email, it's spam. Period. And regardless of how great you might think your lists and offer are, even great email campaigns would be absolutely thrilled to get a 10% conversion rate, which means that at least 9 out of 10 people are going to be likely to press that spam button when the get your message.

      Speaking of that spam button, apart from ethics, you have another problem: technical issues. You're absolutely right that nobody wants to touch your UCE, from SMTP services to VPS providers. And there's a good reason for that: they want their own mail to continue to be delivered. Because there's often more that happens when someone hits that spam button than just deleting the email. Usually that email is reported to various anti-spam services. It's then might be parsed for the content or the sender, and it'll certainly track the SMTP servers that delivered it. And if these SMTP servers cause enough problems, they'll get a red flag next to them which will make it harder for the messages to get delivered -- perhaps even completely banning them in some cases (though it's always up to the email provider to decide what action -- if any -- to take).

      What that means is that even if there were no legal issues, even if there were no ethical issues, and even if you could find a provider who would let you set up your own SMTP servers, your plan still probably wouldn't work because you'd have a hard time getting your messages delivered. At first, your messages would be scrutinized (or filtered) because they were coming from an unknown, untrusted SMTP server. Later, they'd likely be blocked because of all your spam complaints.

      My feeling on spam is that if your offer is that good, there are better ways to reach out to potential leads than one that will most likely piss them off -- even if they're interested in your product. On the other hand, if your offer isn't that good, spamming is probably not going to give you much benefit anyway.
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  • Profile picture of the author eugenedm
    Can i just add this...

    Why don't you host your email sever(VPS) in the U.S. and then you would send emails from U.S. to U.S. and that would create less problems... VPS(virtual private server) services are cheap nowadays...

    Hope this helps.
    Gene adam
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    • Profile picture of the author Monthy
      Originally Posted by eugenedm View Post

      Can i just add this...

      Why don't you host your email sever(VPS) in the U.S. and then you would send emails from U.S. to U.S. and that would create less problems... VPS(virtual private server) services are cheap nowadays...

      Hope this helps.
      Gene adam
      Hi Gene,

      Thanks for your reply. As far as I'm aware most VPS providers do not allow what is called UCE (Unsolicited Commercial Email), even though it is permitted by the U.S. law.

      Also, I don't think that if I was sending email from an American VPS it would change the situation described above at all - if the receiving email server was in Brazil, it would not matter that the outgoing email server is from the USA, in my opinion.

      Monthy
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  • Profile picture of the author nicheblogger75
    Don't do this at all. Instead, build a permission based list so that you can send emails to people that actually want them. Why are some people so afraid of putting in the work it takes to build a responsive, permission based email list?

    I can't understand why anybody would want to mass email thousands of people who have no idea who they are and who have not given them permission to do so.

    I don't know about anyone else here, but when I get unsolicited commercial email (spam), it really pisses me off and I immediately hit the spam button. If I feel that way, chances are lots of others do too. Why take the chance when you know that many people are going to hit the spam button (that's if your email doesn't already go to spam in the first place)?

    Call it "unsolicited commercial email" if you want. Heck, call it whatever you like. It's still SPAM.
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    • Profile picture of the author JohnMcCabe
      I'm sensing a disconnect here. I get the distinct feeling that most of the people responding have very little experience with B2B marketing in the real world. I'm not counting micro businesses marketing to other micro businesses, which is most of the IM/MMO market.

      That said, I would advise against bulk emailing of boilerplate emails. Follow the CAN-SPAM regs, and you should be okay legally. But bulk emailing is usually not all that effective.

      Better to do a custom outreach program. Treat the UCE as advertising, in much the same way one would use banner ads to attract people to an opt-in page.

      Create your lead magnet (white papers still work well in B2B) and use the cold email to ask permission to send the link to the bribe, and to provide additional info.

      If they say yes, send them the link to your landing page. Capture the email, and proceed.

      If they say no, thank them for their time and refer them to an article on your site which provides no-strings value related to your freebie. If they click through, you get a second chance to offer the freebie for a signup.

      As for cold calling, it has its fans. I'm not one of them, but it's personal. I just find the sifting and sorting process to be soul-sucking. If I have to do it for more than a day or two at a time, I find myself finding any excuse not to do it. So I developed ways to accomplish the same thing without having to smile and dial.
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      • Profile picture of the author Monthy
        Originally Posted by JohnMcCabe View Post

        I'm sensing a disconnect here. I get the distinct feeling that most of the people responding have very little experience with B2B marketing in the real world. I'm not counting micro businesses marketing to other micro businesses, which is most of the IM/MMO market.

        That said, I would advise against bulk emailing of boilerplate emails. Follow the CAN-SPAM regs, and you should be okay legally. But bulk emailing is usually not all that effective.

        Better to do a custom outreach program. Treat the UCE as advertising, in much the same way one would use banner ads to attract people to an opt-in page.

        Create your lead magnet (white papers still work well in B2B) and use the cold email to ask permission to send the link to the bribe, and to provide additional info.

        If they say yes, send them the link to your landing page. Capture the email, and proceed.

        If they say no, thank them for their time and refer them to an article on your site which provides no-strings value related to your freebie. If they click through, you get a second chance to offer the freebie for a signup.

        As for cold calling, it has its fans. I'm not one of them, but it's personal. I just find the sifting and sorting process to be soul-sucking. If I have to do it for more than a day or two at a time, I find myself finding any excuse not to do it. So I developed ways to accomplish the same thing without having to smile and dial.
        Thank you, John, for another great response. Much appreciated indeed!

        I have seen people advising to outsource the cold calling to someone located in the Philippines, as an example. That way I would not have to keep my mental focus on the calling itself as it would be taken care of by someone else. I would teach them how to do it properly, how to overcome objections, etc.
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