What rules should you follow for prospecting by e-mail in Europe (B2B) ?

In many case people refer to GDPR to define the regulation around email rules in Europe . But the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) enacts general rules for the processing and use of Data, not for the use of emails.

GDPR shall not be confused with the Electronic Communications Act 2002/21/EC  governing commercial prospecting and emailing.


email rules in Europe

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 map of Europe e-mailing rules

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.

The legitimate Interest

Many companies refer to Article 47 of the GRDP. It 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.

The e-mail rules in France

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.

The e-mail rules in the United Kingdom

Three key laws you need to be aware of:

👉🏼 UK GDPR 2020: similar to the European one, the UK GDPR aims to streamline sales outreach activities. Non-compliance can lead to fines of up to £17.5 million or 4% of the company’s annual global turnover, whichever is higher.

👉🏼 Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) 2003: it covers electronic marketing and customer privacy in communication networks. Violating it can result in a maximum penalty of £500.000.

👉🏼 Data Protection Act 2018: the DPA 2018 controls how organisations, businesses, or the government use personal information. Non-compliance may lead to fines similar to the UK GDPR.

How can you stay compliant with UK cold email laws?

✅ Gain consent: ensure you have consent or a legitimate interest to justify your cold email, as when it comes to contacting individuals it’s crucial.

✅ Provide company details: the email should contain the contact details and the physical address of the company.

✅ Have an appropriate subject line: keep your cold email subject line relevant and free from false promises.

The e-mail rules in other European countries

other European countries have adopted a less relaxed approach. They have required an active Opt-In . Some other countries require 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.

The definitions Opt-in and Opt-out

  • 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.  Thick actively the checkbox, is 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.

In Germany, lawyers have made a specialty of tracking down offenders and go for proceedings. As part of an emailing, you have to respect formalities in writing the signature of emails. In short, you shall take some particularities 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 turnover

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.

Our advice  for emailing campaigns

Direct Marketing, Inbound Marketing, and Prospecting will bring you additional customers and revenues in Europe. Always make sure to select the right advisors for your european marketing operations.

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

You are planing digital marlketing Campaigns in Europe , then read our article International Digital Marketing

For more information: contact@ipanovia.com

Advisory in International Business Development

Ipanovia and its team of international development consultants are at your disposal

About Emmanuel Facovi the Founder and Managing Partner

Emmanuel Facovi - Managing PartnerAs former CEO / senior executive (Nokia, Coface, FCI,  Kompass, Schneider, Areva…) his expertise consists in leading tech companies (SaaS, marketplaces, Techs) with ambitious growth objectives in fast-changing environments.
He is a cross-cultural high technology executive passionate about new technology, innovation, disruptive models, and above all, scaling up your business globally. One of the most renowned Experts in Data, Marketing Strategies of Tech and Digital Industries,
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