is it legal to buy email lists, buying email list, buying email

Is it Legal to Buy Email Lists for Email marketing?

There are no shortcuts to success.

Malcolm Gladwell

Regardless of the industry, successful people always suggest not to take shortcuts. Yet, people take shortcuts, like buying email lists.

While it may seem easy to make money with email marketing with purchased email lists, buying an email list is controversial. Thus, you need to know whether it’s legal or not.

This article explains whether buying an email list is legal or not so that you get to understand the pros and cons of doing so.

But first, let’s go over what an email list is and what’s meant by buying an email list.

What is an email list?

An email list is a collection of email addresses of different people acquired through blogs, landing pages, social media, etc.

Email marketers collect email addresses so that they can send marketing emails to promote their products or brand. While the right approach is to build an email list organically, buying email lists for marketing is possible.

What is meant by buying email lists? 

You may have heard people buying or selling email lists.

How does it work?

Buying an email list is easier than growing one organically. That’s why many people jump right into the trap of thinking about making money quickly.

If you search “Buy email lists” on Google, you will get many websites selling email lists. Such websites sell email lists based on demographic and psychographic information such as location, purchase behavior, age, etc.

They even have categories of email lists and many lucrative offers and guarantees. All you have to do is search for the type of email list you want and pay for it.

While this looks like an easy way compared to growing one with continued efforts, it may be illegal.

Buying email lists: legal or illegal?

We often advise people to learn the rules and regulations before starting their email marketing journey. Why?

Because there are spam laws such as the CAN-SPAM Act, GDPR, and CASL. Violating these laws can cost you a significant penalty.

Most of these laws prohibit sending emails to purchased email addresses. However, whether buying an email list is legal or not depends mostly on your country’s policies regarding GDPR.

For example, there’s no definite guideline about selling email lists in the USA. So it’s not technically illegal to sell or buy email lists.

On the other hand, buying, selling, or renting email lists is strictly prohibited in the UK. Here’s a table to help you understand where it’s legal to use a purchased email list and where it’s not:

PlaceBuying email listsRenting email lists 
CanadaIllegalLegal: If the list owner has taken the necessary consent
EUIllegalLegal: If the list owner has taken the necessary consent
USALegal: if all the rules and regulations are maintainedLegal: if all the rules and regulations are maintained
UKIllegalLegal: if all the rules and regulations are maintained

Apart from the country’s rules and regulations, what you do with the email list also matters.

According to the CAN-SPAM Act, you can’t send emails to people who haven’t given their consent. Therefore, even if it’s legal to buy email lists in many cases, it’s not legal to send emails to purchased addresses.

Why shouldn’t you buy email lists?

The main purpose of email lists is to promote your brand and product by building a relationship with customers. But that purpose won’t be served if you send emails to a purchased email list.  

By now, you probably understand that buying email lists isn’t worth it. If you’re still not convinced, here are some other serious reasons to avoid purchased email lists:

They aren’t trustworthy

Most email list-selling companies are fake, and deceiving. They often play marketing gimmicks to convince people. They might tell you that the email lists are authentic and they have taken consent before collecting the emails.

However, people should provide consent to receiving emails from you rather than someone else.

Should you trust them?
Can you trust them?
Is there any way to verify? 

The answer to all these questions is a big NO. Because third-party emails are not trustworthy. The usual problems that you will face after buying an email list are:

  • Most emails are fake or bots
  • Often there are missing data on the list, or the email addresses are incomplete
  • Old information that users don’t use anymore
  • Emails were collected using illegal ways

If the company you bought your email list from illegally collected emails, you might have to pay $16000 per email as a fine. So even if we forget all the other issues with purchased email lists, this massive penalty amount should discourage you from buying an email list. 

Your emails will go to spam

Let’s accept the fact that we all hate receiving emails that we can’t relate to. And it’s quite irritating when we’re clueless about why we’re receiving an email.

What do you do after receiving such irrelevant commercial emails? Don’t you send them straight into the spam box? Or worse, you may report those.

Email list-selling companies often steal data from people. On the other hand, spam filters protect users from receiving emails that they don’t want. Getting too many spam complaints against you may harm your email deliverability reputation.

As a result, your future emails will go directly to the spam box. Or worse, email clients may blacklist you entirely! 

Poor response and email open rate

What’s the point of buying a huge email list if you don’t get any response? 
– None!

That’s why it’s better to have an organic email list of a hundred people than a purchased list of thousands.

For example, if you have bought an email list of ten thousand people. You may think a 5% conversion rate will do more than enough for your business. Sadly, it’s unlikely to see a 5% open email rate, let alone conversion!

Ruins brand reputation

Buying an email list isn’t the best option for businesses looking forward to running a sustainable business. Starting from the email service providers to the audience, everyone will cut ties with you if they find out that you’re using a purchased email list.

This can go further with people giving you poor reviews for sending unsolicited emails. As a result, people who might be interested may also lose interest due to the negative ambiance around your business.

Possible fines and penalties

Lastly and obviously the most dangerous one, fines and penalties! Buying email lists can destroy a company in the blink of an eye. Wondering how? 

If buying email lists is illegal in your country, you must pay fines for just buying a list. And even if it’s legal, there are still many risk factors. If the people on the list file a complaint against your company, chances are your brand will go bankrupt after paying the sheer amount of fine!

Organic ways to build an email list

Buying email lists can cause serious hazards for your business. But we won’t leave you halfway. Below are some organic ways to build an email list:

  • Produce relevant and useful content: Relevant and useful content can drive many people to your website via search engines and social media. Once you start providing great content, more and more people will visit your website, and your email list will grow organically.
  • Add an email subscription form: Add an email subscription form throughout your website. Blog posts, landing pages, footers, sidebars, etc., are some noticeable places for adding a subscription form. Check out this article if you don’t know how to do that.
  • Pop-ups: Although a controversial method, adding pop-ups can increase email subscriptions significantly. Exit intent pop-ups, scroll pop-ups, and click pop-ups are some of the most popular kinds of pop-up forms to use.
  • Create a personalized CTA: Personalized CTA can generate an almost 42% higher submission rate than generic CTAs. So tweak the CTAs according to the likings of your audience. Don’t forget to add a CTA on every page and blog post. 
  • Leverage gated content: Gating content such as informative blog posts, PDFs, and videos can persuade many people to leave their email addresses on your subscription forms. So use gated content wisely. You can read this article if you don’t know how to gate contents.

These ways may take more effort and time. But the result will be worth all the trouble. Thus, we suggest that you start implementing them right away. If you need some more specific ways of building an email list, check out our guide to building an email list for e-commerce.

Should you buy an email list? 

After reading this article, we bet you won’t even care whether buying email lists is legal. The amount of casualties a purchased email list may create is enough to ignore this option for good.

Rather focus on building your email list organically using the techniques we mentioned. And don’t forget to let us know if you face any problems while building your email list.

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