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Email marketing: Clarifying German opt-in requirements

Kevin Senne
Senior Director of Global Deliverability

**Updated for 2016**

Disclaimer – This should not be interpreted as legal advice.  Please consult your own attorneys for specific legal guidance.

In 2014, we wrote the blog post below and discussed moves the German government had made to remind email senders and receivers about the German COI regulations. This is a post that still gets a lot of views, as marketers around the world look to how specific countries handle email. You may be thinking about sending to customers in Germany, thinking about what the future of email in other countries may hold.

I thought this post was especially helpful considering where we are today. In 2014, we spoke about the clarification by German data protection authorities.

This wasn’t breaking news, but a clarification of the German law that requires marketers to secure confirmed opt-in (aka double opt-in). Here's what you need to know: After the initial opt-in is followed up with a confirmation email, the confirmation details must be recorded and saved. Just recording an IP address is not enough; you must save the email detailing the confirmation. This is major change for senders accustomed to U.S. law. Also, marketing messages sent to “friends” referred by customers is illegal.

This sounds a lot like what is happening in other countries today. We’ve had the recent rash of Spamhaus listings which has driven many marketers to either move to COI, or strongly consider this move. The good news is our research shows that consumers are ready and willing to confirm their email address. With all the recent security breaches (Yahoo anyone?), people seem to like that it’s not a plug and blast scenario. I brought this up in 2014 looking forward, but today for many email senders, this is all reality.

Since we started with Germany, a reminder that senders must disclose the following information when contacting German customers:

  • The types of products and services to be marketed
  • The intended marketing channel
  • Details on the intended sender
  • Where and how to withdraw consent

There are many other pieces to understand, and we would recommend you check out the Federal Data Protection Law of 2009.

The trend toward confirmed opt-in is continuing worldwide. Germany, Australia, Canada, and several other countries have greatly expanded the opt-in requirements for email.  Regardless of the law, confirming permission makes sense for marketers in today’s ISP climate.

The large email providers continue to decrease the time inactive addresses are kept open (Sending to any email address that has been inactive for more than 9 months has risk). Spam traps are a real issue, and complaints are always a problem. Engagement metrics are now incredibly important at sophisticated ISP’s. We’ve been warning you for years now about these changes. The march to COI continues on steadily and slowly.

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The Düsseldorfer Kreis, the assembly of the German data protection authorities, issued guidance that is important news for anyone doing business with German customers via email. This is yet another example of a country that is continuing to strengthen privacy through email marketing opt-in laws and regulations.

This isn’t really breaking news, but a clarification of the German law that requires marketers to secure confirmed opt-in (aka double opt-in). Here's what you need to know: After the initial opt-in is followed up with a confirmation email, the confirmation details must be recorded and saved. Just recording an IP address is not enough; you must save the email detailing the confirmation. This is major change for senders accustomed to U.S. law. Also, marketing messages sent to “friends” referred by customers is illegal.

A reminder that senders must disclose the following information when contacting German customers:

  • The types of products and services to be marketed
  • The intended marketing channel
  • Details on the intended sender
  • Where and how to withdraw consent

There are many other pieces to understand, and we would recommend you check out the Federal Data Protection Law of 2009.

The trend toward confirmed opt-in is continuing worldwide. Germany, Australia, Canada, and several other countries have greatly expanded the opt-in requirements for email. Regardless of the law, confirming permission makes sense for marketers in today’s ISP climate.

The large email providers continue to decrease the time inactive addresses are kept open. Spam traps are a real issue, and complaints are always a problem. Engagement metrics mean uninterested or unaware users have become dangerous to existing programs, rather than just an opportunity.

For more information and tips on email deliverability around the world, download Email Deliverability Guide For Modern Marketers – 2016.

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