Examples of Compliant and Non-Compliant Lists

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

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


This article is provided as a resource, but does not constitute legal advice. Our Support Team is available to assist you, but none of our agents are attorneys. If you have more questions, we encourage you to contact an attorney in your area who is familiar with this issue.

"I bought a list of 30 million emails from this guy on the Internet, and..."noAs a permission-based service, purchased lists violate our Terms of Use and don't generally result in opens and clicks for your campaigns. These addresses could also result in higher bounce and abuse rates, which can damage your sending reputation.
"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..."noThis is too risky. If the subscriber did not sign up to receive email from your company specifically, you risk abuse complaints. There are ways to collect email addresses offline that are compliant and more likely to result in profitable email marketing.
"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."yesThis 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 audience for these recipients, and send a "hey, thanks for visiting us at the trade show" email. Ask them to subscribe to your regular email audience, or let them know you'll send regular emails 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!"infoIf it's been a while since your subscribers signed up for your emails, there's a chance they've forgotten who you are or changed email addresses. Old addresses tend to have higher bounce and unsubscribe rates, and aren't likely to contribute to your ROI, or open and click rates. We recommend you send your subscribers a reconfirmation email to be sure they still want to hear from you before you send new marketing campaigns.
"People who sign up for my service sign in through Facebook and hand over their email addresses by signing up."noThis doesn't necessarily equal permission, and can result in bounces, unsubscribes, and abuse complaints, which could damage your sending reputation. If Facebook is a big part of how you connect with customers, post a signup form on your Facebook Page.
"We're a PR agency, and we want to send announcements on behalf of our clients."infoIf 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 emails to your audience.
"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?"infoTechnically, yes. Purchase history with a customer does qualify as permission under our Terms of Use and Acceptable Use Policy, but subscribers are more likely to be engaged and active in the long run if they've given their express permission to receive emails from you. We recommend you include a link to your signup form on your purchase confirmations or receipts, or send your customers a reconfirmation email to be sure they want to hear from you before you send new marketing content.
"I'm a photographer. I bought my list from Agency Access, and I want to send art-buyers an e-portfolio..."noThis 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 tool to send an initial invitation. Ask recipients to view your sample work, and include a link to your Mailchimp signup form. The people who opt in are more likely to become active subscribers who make purchases.
"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..."noAlthough these people voluntarily provided their contact information, they didn't ask to receive emails. Follow best practices for offline collection to build an audience of active, engaged subscribers.
"I set up a fish bowl in my store, and asked people to drop their cards in to subscribe to my email newsletter."infoIf 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 denylist you (other providers may refer to it as "blacklist"), 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..."noThis is considered a third-party list. These lists tend to generate abuse complaints and are a violation of our Terms of Use. We recommend you add a signup form to your website or Facebook Page to build your own audience of subscribers who are most likely to engage with your messages.
"I own a restaurant, and we leave a little card at every table that asks people to subscribe to our newsletter."yesGreat, you've collected a permission-based list and can use it as a Mailchimp audience. It's important to send to your audience fairly regularly to keep your subscribers interested in your business. Offline collection methods make it difficult to prove permission, so save a copy of the opt-in cards.
"We've got some big, exciting changes coming at our company, and we want to send an announcement to our customers."infoThis 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."infoThis is fine, as long as every single email includes the required unsubscribe link. If you haven't sent to your customers in a while, reconfirm that they're still interested in your business or product.
"I'm a freelance web designer, and I'm not so sure about my client's list, and..."noDon't send to these contacts until you make sure they're using best practices for audiences.
"We want to send a thank-you email to everyone who came to our event."infoIf 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 emails.
"When people buy from my online store, I ask them if they'd also like to subscribe for email newsletters and promotions."yesIf they checked a box to subscribe to emails, then they gave you permission. We advise against using a box that is checked by default, because no action is required. Consider using our API to automatically add customers who opt-in to your emails.
"We want to send an email survey to our customers."infoYou can use Mailchimp to send a survey invitation to your customers if they gave you permission to send them emails. If your subscribers haven't heard from you in a while, reconfirm the addresses before you can send your survey or other email marketing material.
"I'm sending an email to other members of this local organization..."noThis is considered a third-party list, which violates our Terms of Use because it's likely to generate bounces and abuse complaints. If the organization has a public forum or Facebook Page, contact the person who manages it and ask if you can post a link to your signup form.
"We want to send an announcement to our employees."infoMailchimp 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, and..."infoMailchimp's email marketing service is permission-based, 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."noCASL's regulations are a little looser in some areas than Mailchimp's Terms of Use. Unsolicited mail tends to generate abuse complaints and bounces that negatively affect your sending reputation. We require you to obtain permission to send email because it encourages subscriber engagement and improves ROI. Find out more about CASL and how you can stay compliant using Mailchimp.

Was this article helpful?

Anything else we can do to improve our site?