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Contributor(s): Ivy Wigmore

Opt-out communications are messages sent for marketing, promotion or fundraising that include an option for the recipient to be removed from any future messages. 

The term was originally applied mostly to email messages but applies to any kind of electronic communication, including social media, voicemail, text and instant messages – known collectively as commercial electronic messages (CEM).

The opt-out model involves implied consent on the part of current recipients: They are assumed to be willing to receive the messages because they have the option to refuse them. The American CAN SPAM legislation follows this model. Specifically, CAN SPAM requires that senders:

  • Clearly label commercial e-mail as advertising.
  • Use a truthful and relevant subject line.
  • Use a legitimate return e-mail address.
  • Provide a valid physical address.
  • Provide a working opt-out option.
  • Process opt-out requests within ten business days.

The alternative model, opt-in, requires senders to obtain recipients’ implied or express consent before sending a message. Canadian anti-spam legislation (CASL), which is based on the opt-in model, affects any organizations or individuals sending CEM to recipients in that country.

This was last updated in July 2014

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