What rules should you follow for prospecting by email in Europe (B2B) ?

Green, yellow, or orange zone?  Get it right !

The European GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) enacts general rules for the processing and use of Data. It shall not be confused with the Electronic Communications Act 2002/21/EC  governing commercial prospecting and emailing.


However, each country sets its own  rules that can be more or less restrictive: Single Opt-in, Double Opt-in, or Opt-out (definitions below) provided that the minimum level of privacy and data protection are enforced.

The attached map sheds light on the rules and trends to observe in each European country. These rules are changing rapidly, it is better to stay on top before carrying out local marketing campaigns and remember that  strictest local laws always apply.

Many companies refer to Article 47 of the GRDP, which mentions the legitimate interest in contacting a person to justify the use of his contact information (nominative email) for commercial purposes. If this legitimate interest is obvious when contacting a client to perform a contract, one may wonder for a prospect.

In France,  the CNIL (Data Protection Regulator) seems to be somehow flexible, as long as the opt-out is carefully implemented. It defines that the object of the solicitation must be in relation with the job of the contacted person. Generic business addresses such as info@companyname.com, contact@companyname.com are the contact information of legal entities. They are not subject to the principles of consent and the right of objection.

The CNIL’s rules can be found here.

This is not the case in most other European countries. Many countries have adopted a less relaxed approach and have required an active Opt-In . Some other countries are requiring a double Opt-In.

In  Belgium, the Royal Order of 4 April 2003 regulates the sending of electronic communications. It requires prior consent before the sending of a communication to a “surname.name@companyname.com” address, thus an Opt-in.

To be clear about what each method covers:

  • The Opt-out means that the recipient must have a simple way to refuse to receive your communication and opt-out of your databases at any time. That is the right of opposition.
  • The Single Opt-in: recipient of the message has previously ticked a box giving his consent to the receipt of an email. The checkbox must be actively ticked to be considered a manifestation of free, specific, enlightened, and univocal will.
  • The Double Opt-in strengthens the collection of consent by using a checkbox, and in a second step requires the recipient to click on a link embedded in an email  to confirm his contact details and thus validate his consent.

 The basic principles of consent and right of objection for professionals:

The person must, at the time of collecting his email address

  • Be informed that his email address will be used for prospecting purposes,
  • Be able to oppose this use in a simple and free given way.

The GDPR has provided exemplary sanctions for non-compliance with the rules, and in some data-sensitive countries, such as Germany, where lawyers have made a specialty of tracking down offenders and go for proceedings. In Germany, as part of an emailing, you have to respect formalities in writing the signature of emails. In short, some particularities to be taken into account for each country.


  • 1st level of sanction: Article 83)4 of the GDPR: 10 million euros or 2% of the world’s annual turnover. 
  • 2nd level of sanction: Article 83)5 and 6) of the GDPR: 20 million euros or 4% of the world’s annual 

link to the texts of the GDPR: here

In the case of Germany, a quick procedure enforces a 4000 euros penalty in case of infringement.

Direct Marketing, Inbound Marketing, and Prospecting will bring you additional customers and revenues abroad, accessing markets with tremendous potentials. Always make sure to select the right advisors for your international marketing operations.

Ipanovia can help, advise and also direct you to reliable Data and List providers in France, Europe, and North-America

For more information: contact@ipanovia.com