Examples of Compliant and Non-Compliant Lists

We've helped a lot of customers and we've seen lots of lists, so we can tell you if your list is likely to run into some trouble. In this article, you'll learn about some common scenarios that'll help you decide whether or not your list is okay to use with MailChimp.

Every situation is unique, so if you don't see a representative example below, refer to our Terms of Use.

Scenario OK? Advice
"I bought a list of 30 million emails from this guy on the Internet, and..." Purchased lists violate our Terms of Use, because the email addresses on that list did not opt in to receive emails specifically from your company or organization. If you send to a purchased list, it will likely result in a high number of bounces and abuse complaints.
"We set up a booth at a trade show, and the trade show host provided me with a list of all attendees who came, so they're obviously interested in what we're selling..." This is too risky, because the subscriber did not sign up to receive email from your company specifically. If you send to these email addresses, it may result in a high number of bounces or abuse complaints. There are ways to collect email addresses offline that are compliant with our Terms of Use.
"We recently presented at a trade show, and we had an email opt-in form/kiosk at our booth. We want to send them a thank-you note, plus some followup information." This is okay to use if each attendee or visitor knew they were going to receive emails from your company. We recommend that you set up a new list for these recipients, and send a "hey, thanks for visiting us at the trade show" email. Ask them to subscribe to your regular email list, or let them know you'll send regular newsletters soon and provide a link to opt-out. Send this email as soon as possible after the show, so they remember signing up to hear from you.
"A few years ago, we collected email addresses at a trade show/seminar/conference, and now we're ready to finally start sending email newsletters!" Because it has been awhile, most of the subscribers may have forgotten who you are or have changed email addresses. Sending to these subscribers could result in spam complaints and bounces, which could cause us to suspend your account. Even though you collected your list responsibly, you need to reconfirm that they still want to be on your list before you send to them.
"People who sign up for my service sign in through Facebook and hand over their email addresses by signing up." You can send to those emails collected by Facebook Login only through Facebook, not MailChimp. If someone signs in to your application with Facebook, this doesn't necessarily equal permission to be added to a mailing list. Feel free to send them a link to your signup form, or place a signup form on your Facebook Page.
"We're a PR agency, and we want to send announcements on behalf of our clients." If you send announcements to people who have a business relationship with you or your client, and who know you, then you'll probably be okay. Otherwise, if you're sending to a list of email addresses, like a list of reporters, who have never heard of you, this would be considered spam according to the FTC. PR firms are in a gray area, so we encourage you to consult with your lawyers about CAN-SPAM before you send to your list.
"I've been running an e-commerce site for years. Now I'm ready to start sending my customers email newsletters. They're my customers, so I have a prior business relationship with them, right?" Maybe, but keep in mind that permission goes stale after about six months. If any recipients haven't ordered or heard from you in awhile, send a reconfirm email to them to make sure they still want to be on your list.
"I'm a photographer. I bought my list from Agency Access, and I want to send art-buyers an e-portfolio..." This is considered a purchased list and is a violation of our Terms of Use. However, Agency Access offers an email-delivery system, so you can use that to send an initial invitation to view your sample work, and ask recipients to join your MailChimp list. The people who opt in will be more responsive, since they liked your work enough to give you permission to email them.
"I set up a fish bowl by my cash register, so customers can drop in their business cards for a chance to win a free lunch..." Although these people voluntarily provided their contact information, this does not necessarily mean they gave permission to be sent emails. Collect emails offline in a way that's compliant with our Terms of Use.
"I set up a fish bowl in my store, and asked people to drop their cards in to subscribe to my email newsletter." If you explicitly told people you would send them emails, it's okay to use MailChimp. But keep in mind that since these are offline subscribers, you'll have difficulty proving they gave you permission. If you get a lot of spam complaints, and ISPs or anti-spam organizations threaten to blacklist you, you may have difficulty proving you were given permission. Hold on to a copy of the subscribers' business cards in case you need to provide these as proof of permission.
"I'm a real estate agent. I got this email list from our local real estate organization and..." This is considered a third-party list and is against our Terms of Use. Generally, if you're a real-estate agent, you can use MailChimp only to send to recipients who subscribed to your list on your own website.
"I own a restaurant, and we leave a little card at every table that asks people to subscribe to our newsletter." Great, you can use MailChimp. Be sure to contact people fairly regularly, because permission goes stale in six months, and people might forget you and report you for spamming. Because offline-collection methods make it difficult to prove permission, save a copy of the opt-in cards you used.
"We've got some big, exciting changes coming at our company, and we want to send an announcement to our customers." This is fine, as long as every single email includes an unsubscribe link, which is a requirement under our Terms of Use.
"Our company is moving. We want to send our new address to all our customers." This is fine, as long as every single email includes an unsubscribe link, which is a requirement under our Terms of Use. Additionally, if your customers haven't purchased or heard from you in a while, you should reconfirm that they still want to hear from you.
"I'm a freelance web designer, and I'm not so sure about my client's list, and..." Don't send to this list until you make sure they're using best practices for list collection.
"We want to send a thank-you email to everyone who came to our event." If the people who gave you their email address were explicitly told they would receive your email newsletters, then you can send to them. If you got their email address because they purchased tickets online, then you likely used an online RSVP system. In that case, use the RSVP system to send a transactional thank-you email that includes a link for them to opt-in to subscribe to your MailChimp list.
"When people buy from my online store, I ask them if they'd also like to subscribe for email newsletters and promotions." If they checked a box to subscribe to emails, then they gave you permission. Look into our API, so you can automatically pass those subscribers into your MailChimp-managed list.
"We want to send an email survey to our customers." You can use MailChimp to send a survey invitation, so long as these are your customers, and they gave you permission to send them emails. If the list is older than six months, and these people haven't heard from you in a while, the list is considered stale and you will need to reconfirm that your subscribers still want to hear from you before you can use MailChimp.
"I'm sending an email to other members of this local organization..." This is considered a third-party list and is against our Terms of Use. If someone is in the same interest group as your company or organization, this does not mean they gave permission to receive emails from you specifically.
"We want to send an announcement to our employees." MailChimp is a permission-based email service, so every email must include our unsubscribe link. Because you likely want your employees to read every email, you may want to send internal emails from your own system to prevent the risk of unsubscribes.
"We're an agency, and we're helping our client with their email marketing. Their sales and marketing team has assembled a list of emails from their address books, CRM, and..." MailChimp is a permission-based email service, so if any of these contacts are prospects or didn't opt-in to receive emails from the company, then they need to be removed from the list.
"CASL says I can contact anyone whose contact information is publicly available data to gain consent." CASL's regulations are a little looser in some areas than MailChimp's Terms of Use. As a rule of thumb, you want written consent from all of your subscribers, but sending an unsolicited email to someone whose email address is publicly available doesn't fall into an approved category in MailChimp's book. Find out more about CASL and how you can stay compliant using MailChimp.

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