Unsubscribing Made Easy: Understanding Email Unsubscribe Law Canons

email unsubscribe law cover image with gavel

Email unsubscribe law regulations exist because governments recognize that email recipients should be able to unsubscribe easily. These laws protect users from unwanted email marketing and promote a healthy email ecosystem.

The industry is working closely to ensure that spam gets eradicated. Email marketers must stay aware of these regulations so they don’t face issues — and this guide helps you navigate the rules and discover how to keep your subscribers and mailbox providers happy.

Email Unsubscribe Law Regulations You Should Know About

Several laws around the world have specific clauses for email unsubscribes.

These are the most prominent email unsubscribe laws in the world:

  • United States: The main law governing commercial email in the US is the CAN-SPAM Act (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing). It requires all commercial emails to include a clear and functional unsubscribe mechanism.
  • European Union: The GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) shares guidelines for email marketers in Europe. While it doesn’t specifically address email unsubscribe laws, it mandates that individuals have the right to withdraw consent for processing their personal data, which includes receiving marketing emails. Marketers must provide clear and easy ways for individuals to unsubscribe from their mailing lists.
  • Canada: Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) regulates the sending of commercial electronic messages (CEMs), including email. It requires that commercial emails include a functional unsubscribe mechanism, allowing recipients to easily opt out of receiving future emails.
  • Australia: The Spam Act 2003 regulates the sending of unsolicited commercial electronic messages, including email, SMS, and MMS. It requires that commercial electronic messages include a functional unsubscribe mechanism, allowing recipients to opt out of future messages.

There are similar acts in numerous other countries that have rules about letting users unsubscribe easily.

CAN-SPAM Act: Focus on Ease of Unsubscribes

The CAN-SPAM Act, a law that sets the rules for commercial email and messages, places a strong emphasis on the right of recipients to stop unwanted emails. 

This table summarizes the CAN-SPAM Act:

RuleWhat it means
HeadersMust be accurate and not misleading.
Subject lineMust accurately reflect the content of the message.
IdentificationEmail must be clearly identified as an advertisement.
Location informationMust include the sender’s valid physical postal address.
Opt-out instructionsMust provide a clear way for recipients to opt out of future emails.
Prompt opt-out processingOpt-out requests must be honored within 10 business days.
Third-party complianceThe original sender is responsible for emails sent on their behalf.
CAN-SPAM Act: Rules

CAN-SPAM: Simple Opt-Outs are Mandatory

Central to this act is its requirements around unsubscribing — it ensures consumers can easily opt out of future communications, thus giving them control over their inboxes.

Under the CAN-SPAM Act, each commercial email must include a clear and obvious way for recipients to opt out of receiving future emails. This is typically accomplished through an unsubscribe link that must be easy to find and understand. 

CAN-SPAM also requires the opt-out process to be simple — the user should not have to take unnecessary steps like sending a reply email or visiting a web page.

Once a recipient opts to unsubscribe, the sender has a maximum of 10 business days to honor the request. During this period, sending further commercial emails to the requester is against the law. The act prohibits charging any fees or requiring the recipient to provide any personally identifiable information beyond an email address to unsubscribe. 

The CAN-SPAM Act’s unsubscribe provisions are designed not only to protect consumers from unwanted emails but also to foster a healthier email marketing ecosystem. By mandating a straightforward unsubscribe process, the act helps reduce the number of uninterested recipients, ultimately allowing for more targeted email marketing campaigns.

The GDPR is Equally Strict About Unsubscribes

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) significantly emphasizes individuals’ rights to control their personal data, including the specific aspect of unsubscribing from email communications or other forms of direct marketing.

These are the rules the GDPR has implemented for the email industry in a nutshell:

AspectWhat GDPR says
Personal dataEnsures the protection and privacy of personal data collected from individuals within the EU.
ConsentRequires clear and affirmative consent for the processing of personal data.
Right to accessIndividuals have the right to access their personal data held by organizations.
Right to deletionIndividuals can request the removal of their personal data under certain conditions.
Data portabilityIndividuals can obtain and reuse their personal data across different services.
Privacy by designCalls for the inclusion of data protection from the onset of designing systems, rather than as an addition.
Data protection professionalsOrganizations must appoint a Data Protection Officer if they process significant amounts of data.
Breach notificationOrganizations must notify authorities of data breaches within 72 hours and affected individuals without undue delay.
GDPR: Summary of rules

What Does GDPR Say About Email Unsubscribe Laws?

GDPR strongly emphasizes empowering individuals regarding their data, ensuring they can choose how their information is used and when to halt its usage. Under GDPR, the process for individuals to unsubscribe from email lists or marketing communications must be straightforward and user-friendly. 

Organizations are required to include clear, easily accessible opt-out options in every communication sent, allowing individuals to withdraw their consent with as much ease as they gave it. This requirement is based on the principle of consent, which mandates that consent must be freely given, specific, informed, and unambiguous.

GDPR also insists that businesses promptly act upon receiving an unsubscribe request. These requests must be processed without undue delay so that recipients’ choices regarding their data are respected promptly. 

Failure to comply with these provisions can result in significant penalties, too — data protection authorities are rather strict when it comes to protecting individual privacy rights in the EU.

Mailbox Providers are Keen on Unsubscribe Options, too

It’s not just governments that are taking a stand against spam — Google and Yahoo have shared guidelines for 2024 with a specific focus on high-volume email senders, too. It applies to anyone who sends 5,000 or more messages a day to Gmail and Yahoo accounts. 

The new spam update dictates guidelines for the following: 

  1. Authentication, 
  2. Sender reputation, 
  3. Email content,
  4. Unsubscribe options.


Senders must ensure their sending domains or IPs have valid forward and reverse DNS records (also known as PTR records). This helps confirm ownership of the domain or IP used for sending. Email marketers also need to use a TLS connection to encrypt email transmissions, protecting content during delivery.

Additionally, bulk emailers must implement strong email authentication practices like SPF (Sender Policy Framework), DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail), and DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance) to verify the legitimacy of their emails and prevent spoofing.

Email security protocols explained:

SPFSPF records in DNS specify which IP addresses are authorized to send emails from a particular domain.
DKIMThis authentication method uses cryptographic keys to sign email messages, allowing the recipient to verify the message’s integrity and authenticity.
DMARCDMARC builds on SPF and DKIM and lets domain owners specify policies for authentication failures and receive reports on authentication results.
Email Security Protocols Explained

Sender Reputation

Bulk emailers have to maintain a low spam complaint rate for their sender reputation. Gmail tracks user reports of spam, and senders with excessively high spam rates will have their emails delivered less frequently or even blocked entirely.

Email marketers have to keep spam rates below 0.10% and avoid reaching a threshold of 0.30% or higher. For their Gmail users, email marketers can monitor spam rates using Google’s Postmaster Tools.

Email Content

Marketers must focus on permission-based email marketing and avoid sending emails to people who haven’t opted in to receive them. Senders should ensure their emails follow the Internet Message Format standard (RFC 5322) to avoid deliverability issues. Marketing emails can’t use misleading “From” headers either. 

If senders forward emails, they have to add ARC headers to outgoing emails. ARC headers indicate the message was forwarded and identify them as the forwarder. Mailing list senders should also add a List-id: header, which specifies the mailing list, to outgoing messages.

Easy Unsubscribe

This is a key guideline that both Google and Yahoo emphasize.

All bulk emailers must make it easy for recipients to unsubscribe from their emails. From February 1st, 2024 onwards, all commercial or promotional messages must include a one-click unsubscribe option. Emails should have list-unsubscribe (more on this below) and list-unsubscribe-post headers, which let email clients unsubscribe with a single click. 

But that’s not all — these unsubscribe requests should be processed promptly.

Why Should Email Marketers Make Unsubscribing Easy?

Letting your subscribers unsubscribe with the click of a button sounds counterproductive. After all, you struggled to build a good email list, and if you had a clean, clear signup process, shouldn’t you convince your subscribers to stay?

Not quite!

Letting users unsubscribe easily gives you these benefits:

  1. Many countries have regulations that require you to provide a clear and easy way for recipients to opt out of receiving further emails.
  2. If someone wants to unsubscribe and can’t find a way to do so easily, they’re more likely to get frustrated and mark your email as spam. This can hurt your sender reputation and make it more difficult for your emails to reach inboxes in the future.
  3. Not everyone wants to receive promotional emails, and recipients should have the right to choose whether they want to continue receiving them or not. By providing easy unsubscribe options, you show respect for recipients’ preferences and autonomy.
  4. It’s better to have a smaller list of engaged recipients who genuinely want to receive emails than a larger list of disinterested or annoyed recipients. Easy unsubscribe options help to filter out recipients who are not interested in the content, leading to more accurate engagement metrics.
  5. By allowing users to unsubscribe easily, you show them that you respect their time and inbox. This can foster goodwill and even leave the door open for them to resubscribe in the future if their interests change.

Sharing a clear and easy unsubscribe option in your emails is a good practice that benefits both email marketers and their subscribers. It helps you stay on the right side of the law, maintain a healthy email list, and improve the overall effectiveness of your email marketing efforts.

How to Adhere to Email Unsubscribe Laws

Email marketers can adhere to email unsubscribe laws by implementing several best practices and ensuring compliance with relevant regulations.

These steps will ensure you’re on track:

  1. Provide a clear unsubscribe link: Include a clear and conspicuous unsubscribe link in every commercial email sent. The link should be easy to find and understand, allowing recipients to opt out of future email communications effortlessly.
  2. Process unsubscribe requests promptly: Honor unsubscribe requests promptly. Once a recipient clicks the unsubscribe link or sends an unsubscribe request through any other means, ensure that their email address is promptly removed from the mailing list. Ideally, this should occur within 10 business days as per the CAN-SPAM Act.
  3. Maintain your email list: Regularly update and trim your email list to ensure that unsubscribe requests are processed effectively. Remove unsubscribed email addresses promptly and avoid re-adding them to the mailing list without explicit permission.
  4. Do NOT email users who unsubscribe: Respect recipients’ preferences — avoid sending commercial emails to individuals who have opted out or unsubscribed from your mailing list. Breaking this rule can have severe consequences, legally speaking.
  5. Provide opt-out options: Ensure that your unsubscribe mechanisms comply with relevant regulations such as CAN-SPAM, GDPR, and CASL. Provide clear instructions on how recipients can unsubscribe from future email communications, and ensure that the unsubscribe process is straightforward and user-friendly.
  6. Include contact info: Share valid contact information in your commercial emails, such as a physical mailing address or a valid email address where recipients can send unsubscribe requests or contact your organization for assistance.

By following these best practices and adhering to email unsubscribe laws, email marketers can manage the risk of non-compliance and potential legal consequences.

One-Click Email Unsubscribes in Email Marketing

One-click email unsubscribes are a user-friendly feature (and now one required by law) included in email marketing campaigns that allow recipients to easily opt out of future communications with just a single click. 

This feature is crucial for both user convenience and compliance with email marketing laws and regulations. 

One-Click Unsubscribes: Why You Must Implement Them in 2024

Single-click unsubscribes offer a win-win opportunity for both email senders and recipients:

  • User convenience: It provides a straightforward way for users to manage their email preferences, enhancing their experience and control over what communications they receive.
  • Compliance with laws: Laws and regulations governing email marketing often require that businesses provide a clear and easy way for recipients to opt out of receiving future emails. The one-click unsubscribe feature helps ensure compliance with these laws.
  • Reduction of spam reports: By making it easy for users to unsubscribe, businesses can reduce the likelihood of recipients marking their emails as spam. This can help maintain the sender’s reputation and improve email deliverability.
  • Feedback: Certain businesses use the unsubscribe process as an opportunity to gather feedback from users about why they are opting out, which can provide valuable insights for improving future email campaigns.

How Do One-Click Unsubscribes Work? 

The one-click unsubscribe process typically involves a link embedded in the footer of the email that, when clicked, automatically processes the user’s request to unsubscribe from the mailing list. 

This action should require no additional steps from the user, such as logging in or filling out a form. List unsubscribe-headers also make it easy for email users to quickie unsubscribe from email lists.

However, businesses may optionally offer a page where users can manage their email preferences in more detail after they click the unsubscribe link.

Implementing One-Click Unsubscribes

Here’s how you can go about adding this feature to your email campaigns:

  1. The unsubscribe link should be clearly visible and easy to find within the email to ensure users can opt out without difficulty.
  2. The unsubscribe request should be processed immediately or within a short specified timeframe, as required by law.
  3. Sending a final email to confirm the user’s unsubscription can be a good practice, provided it clearly states that it is a confirmation and not an attempt to re-engage the user against their wishes.
  4. Once unsubscribed, businesses should honor the user’s decision and avoid sending further unsolicited emails.

Implementing a one-click unsubscribe feature is not only about legal compliance but also about respecting the preferences and time of the email recipients. It reflects positively on a brand’s commitment to customer satisfaction and trustworthiness.

Ways to Reduce Unsubscribes

Managing email unsubscribes can feel like a massive task, but it’s all about keeping your audience engaged and making them feel valued. Instead of worrying whether easy unsubscribes will drain your email list, it’s better to focus on ways to keep your subscriber base loyal.

Here are a few hands-on strategies to keep your unsubscribe rates low:

  • Segmentation: Not everyone is interested in everything. By segmenting your email list based on behaviors or demographics, you can tailor your content to match the interests of different audience segments.
  • Manage email frequency: Too many emails can overwhelm your subscribers, while too few can make them forget about you. Find that sweet spot in your email frequency.
  • Send great content: Deliver email content that adds value to your subscribers’ lives. Whether it’s insightful articles, exclusive deals, or personal stories, make your emails too good to miss.
  • Accurate subject lines: The first thing your subscribers see is the subject line. Make it catchy, intriguing, or humorous — just ensure it’s not misleading.
  • Optimize for smartphones: With the majority of emails being opened on mobile devices, if your email doesn’t look good on a small screen, you might lose your audience. 
  • Let users set preferences: People love having control. Offering an option to customize their email preferences (like types of emails received or frequency) can make subscribers feel in charge and less likely to unsubscribe.
  • Collect feedback: When someone decides to unsubscribe, don’t take it personally. Instead, see it as an opportunity to learn. Include a brief, optional survey asking why they’re leaving. 

It’s all about building and maintaining a relationship with your subscribers. Show them you understand and value their needs, and they’ll have every reason to stay.

Double Opt-In Also Helps Reduce Unsubscribes

Double opt-in is like a handshake confirming someone really wants to engage with your emails. It involves two steps: first, a user signs up for your mailing list, usually through a form on your website; then, they must confirm their subscription by clicking a link in a confirmation email sent to their inbox. 

This process helps reduce unsubscribes in many ways:

  1. By requiring a second step to subscribe, double opt-in filters out those who aren’t genuinely interested in your content. This means your list is composed of engaged subscribers who are less likely to hit unsubscribe.
  2. Email providers keep an eye on how many recipients mark your emails as spam. A list built through double opt-in is likely to have fewer spam complaints because subscribers have explicitly confirmed their interest.
  3. Sometimes, people enter incorrect email addresses — by mistake or on purpose. Double opt-in helps ensure that only valid, correctly spelled email addresses make it onto your list. 
  4. Subscribers who go through the double opt-in process demonstrate a higher level of commitment and interest in your brand — these subscribers are more likely to open, read, and engage with your emails.
  5. In certain regions, double opt-in is a legal requirement for email marketing. Even where it’s not, using this method shows subscribers you’re committed to respecting their inbox and their privacy. This builds trust right from the start, which is essential for a long-term relationship with your subscribers.

By ensuring that only those who are truly interested and committed make it onto your email list, double opt-in acts as a quality filter for your audience, leading to lower unsubscribe rates and a more engaged subscriber base.

Using Lead Magnets Effectively to Build a Solid Email List

Misleading people during lead generation to sign up for your list is a terrible idea. In a hurry to build large email lists and a huge pool of potential customers, email marketers can often make silly mistakes.

Acquiring customers is an art form; it requires a strong understanding of your customers, psychological techniques, and clever funnel management to ensure you find prospects who sign up and stay loyal.

This is where the Lead Magnet Multiplier course can help you. Worry not, the program is 100% FREE, we only require that you finish the course in 7 days if you want to retain access forever. 

As for the benefits of the course — do it right, and you could see as much as 8X the usual signups. The course teaches you how to increase your lead magnet consumption and ramp up the open and click rates of your lead magnets.

Sign up for the Lead Magnet Multiplier today! 

Campaign Refinery: Clean, User-Friendly Email Practices

Campaign Refinery aims to be a powerful email marketing automation platform for email marketers, but we have always maintained a focus on email being a pleasant and productive experience for email users too.

This focus has rewarded us with the best deliverability rates in the industry — as it turns out, adherence to rules and best practices made mailbox providers appreciate us more!

Here’s why Campaign Refinery is a torchbearer for good email practices:

  1. We are strictly against any spammy activities. This means, that as an ethical email marketer, you don’t need to worry about spammers on Campaign Refinery servers. 
  2. We have an approval process to ensure only legitimate emailers join our platform; this means our IP and domain reputation stats are stellar,  allowing more of our emails to make it to the primary inbox.
  3. We require all emails to have unsubscribe links in the footers.
  4. If you’re thinking about security protocols, you should know that all our clients have implemented SPF, DKIM, and DMARC on their domains — it’s mandatory to have these in place before they can send a single email. 
  5. It’s not just about clean practices; we also have tools like Evergreen Flash Sales and Gamification that can send your engagement rates and conversion rates through the roof.
  6. Our Tag Manager and Goals features ensure you control the customer’s journey at all times — they won’t receive a single unnecessary email with our powerful automation in place.
  7. Our automated list-cleaning tool goes through your email list and removes problematic entries like spam traps, bots, seeder accounts, role-based emails, and more. 

At Campaign Refinery, you can shut out the noise and focus on creating emails that your subscribers will love. 

To learn more, apply to become a Campaign Refinery customer today!

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