If you are involved with marketing in any way, you have likely come across the possibility of cold emailing. If done properly, this strategy has the capability of enlarging your customer base fairly quickly, opening a veil of effective communication between you and your leads and greatly assisting you in the closing of more deals. 

It all sounds like an appealing, unquestionably optimal method, however, there appears to be a thin line between cold emailing and spamming. So what is the legality of this technique, after all? What is the difference between the two? Let’s cover all that you need to know to set up a successful marketing campaign, with clear distinction and a legal, green light. 

Cold Emails Are Not the Same as Spam 

Though often misinterpreted, there is a clear distinction between the two terms, as well as a varying legal status in different countries. 

An effective cold email is fully legal and uses personalization to its own ascendancy; it is a key characterizing element of Ninja Partners’ game plan. It provides clear, valid information, friendly vocabulary, and creates a feeling of trust and understanding within the reader. 

Spam, on the other hand, encompasses generic and impersonal messages. These may be sent in bulk to people who have not been through the qualification process, often ending up in inboxes that have absolutely no relevance to the content. These inboxes might also be victims of deceptive, spamming information, such as clickbait or false links. 

To avoid that your emails end up in this category, or result in a penalty of up to $42,530, it is important to become acquainted with what laws are relevant in your country. This way, cold emailing can instead be used as an efficacious, legal strategy that will significantly boost your business flow. 

How to Certify Your Cold Email is Legal

There are several points that must be utilized in order to determine a legal cold emailing campaign. To keep things correct and clear, it is important to pay attention to the following criteria:

Are Your Emails CAN-SPAM Compatible? 

Enacted in 2003, the CAN-SPAM Act covers the needed compliances for sending B2C and B2B commercial messages – entailing cold emails – and provides recipients with the right to terminate any receiving emails from businesses.

Moreover, the Act applies to “any electronic mail message the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service.” Violating this Act is what could result in the avoidable, undesired penalty of $42,530 per email (in USA). 

So how to comply with it? Fortunately, it’s quite simple. This varies from country to country, so let’s take a look at a few different approaches internationally. 

How to Email Legally in the USA 

Though other countries appear more strict in the field, the USA shows a more liberal standpoint. It is fully allowed to initiate contact with people you have never previously communicated with, so long you source the contacts legally, provide them with thoroughly honest information, and an easy and clear option to unsubscribe. 

Be Honest About Who You Are 

Using accurate sender details is absolutely necessary. Do not falsify any information, as that would classify your email as deceptive spam. Sender details also include the written presence of a legal, existing company address, possibly being your office or a given P.O box. 

Additionally, honesty should be coherent in any present links or advertisements, never using misleading clickbait or fooling your client into a certain action. This not only contravenes human decency but also places you under the dangers of illegal forfeit. Instead, deliver clear intentions with respect and integrity. 


Once your targets subscribe to receiving your emails, if they no longer wish to be a part of your emailing list, an unsubscribing option should be given clearly. If this recourse is not available within the email itself, the sending address should validly be able to receive answers affirming there is no interest. Furthermore, no continuing conversation or collection of data should take place once the customer states his wish not to participate. 

Another thoughtful option is to allow your target to adjust the receiving email preferences, selecting which kind of content is desiring obtainable and canceling out anything that is not. In equal importance, full compliance with CAN-SPAM grants you a total of ten days to remove the target from your list or adapt it accordingly to the customer’s preferences. 

Stay Away from Harvested Lists 

Make sure to source your contact information from a valuable source. This means leaving out the usage of second-party robots that illegally dig websites or any sort of in-between company list trading. Alternatively, look at options such as social platform engine searches, such as Linkedin, or the built-in feature Sales Navigator. This will not only steer you away from any illegal partaking but also furnish you with much better results. 

How to Email Legally in Canada

Contrary to the U.S.A regulations, Canada shows a stern frame of mind when it comes to email. In order to legally follow through, expressed consent is demanded from the outreaching contact. This implies that the target has given you permission or sent a request to receive your messages. It must be provable in its expression, so make sure to hold onto any important compromising data. 

The prospect might give you direct permission through either a phone call, letter, or email. Otherwise, a reciprocal client relationship may also facilitate the situation. If you have a friend who shares with you a mutual client, it is possible to opt for a referral at the request of said company, thus entering a legal space for you to email the particular customer.  

Being honest with your content and providing unsubscribing options are also equally admissible in Canada. To clear out any doubts or remaining questions, we recommend consulting with this table of contents. 

How to Email Legally in the United Kingdom

The regulations of cold emailing in the U.K bring a similar strictness as Canada, however with much higher punishment rates. While the criteria of honesty, opt-out availability, and consent are also relevant in this location, their recent GDPR legislation states penalties as high as €10 million/2% annual global turnover. Refer to this page for detailed information if you are looking to legally email in the United Kingdom. 

Australian emailing laws are not much different from Canada and the U.K; all the aforementioned touchstones apply equitably. This page can help you confirm all the details. 


In this article, we have covered every aspect of cold email marketing and how it separates itself from illegal spamming in multiple countries.

We hope you apply this information constructively to your advantage! 

By Julia Arguello Busch