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Understand opt-in consent for email

Last updated: January 29, 2024

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"Opt-in" can generally be defined as a situation where contacts themselves submit their email address to an organization, and have the expectation that they'll receive marketing emails as a result.

You must adhere to HubSpot's Acceptable Use Policy, which requires your recipient grants verifiable permission before you send them a marketing email through HubSpot. If you need to communicate with a new contact (e.g., send them an introductory email), but they have yet to grant you verifiable permission to receive marketing emails, you can still send them a one-to-one email.

Learn about the different types of consent below, along with examples of which forms of consent are acceptable by HubSpot's standards to send marketing emails to contacts.

Implied and explicit forms of consent

Prior to sending marketing emails, it's important to understand email marketing compliance, namely the difference between implied and explicit opt-in consent:

  • Implied consent is given when an individual gives you their email address for some business purpose, but has not explicitly stated that they want to receive marketing emails from you.
  • Explicit consent is given when you ask an individual for permission to send them marketing emails and they agree. The recipient has to manually opt-in to receive your emails through written consent, clicking a checkbox on your form, or by confirming through double opt-in.

Obtaining either form of consent from a contact will help you follow a permission-based sending model, but explicit consent is more likely to contribute to a healthy email sending reputation.

Please note: whether you receive implied or explicit consent, the consent must always be expressed by an action the customer took through a verifiable method. Lack of an opt-out does not meet HubSpot's requirements for gaining verifiable opt-in consent.

Acceptable forms of consent

The examples listed below describe scenarios where contacts provided a fully acceptable form of consent. In these circumstances, you're free to proceed to email these contacts. 

  • Contacts who submitted a form on your website
  • Contacts who made a purchase with your brand in the last two years
  • Contacts who entered a written contract with your brand in the last two years
  • Contacts who donated to or volunteered with your company in the last two years
  • Contacts who signed up for and are active users of your service, organization, or club
  • Contacts who filled out a paper or electronic sign-up sheet specifically for your newsletter
  • Contacts who converted on your ad

Please note: if you obtained implicit consent from a contact in one of the scenarios above, you should consider obtaining explicit consent via a form checkbox or written consent to improve your overall email health.

Unacceptable forms of consent

The examples below demonstrate scenarios in which contacts have not provided their email address directly to your brand, and the associated opt-in consent is not transferable by HubSpot's standards.

  • Contacts purchased, rented, borrowed, or otherwise obtained from a third party list: some lists may advertise themselves as having obtained opt-in consent, but they cannot be used in the marketing email tool. Contacts obtained through purchased or rented sources are highly likely to bounce, unsubscribe, mark emails as spam, and may cause blocklistings.
  • Membership or organization lists: these are considered third party lists, regardless of any expectations set at the time the list was collected.
  • Personal business contacts from a previous company: these contacts may have given you consent for your previous company, but that consent does not transfer over to your new company by HubSpot's standards.
  • Contacts who submitted a form on another brand's website: contacts who submit a form on another brand's website do not meet the opt-in requirements.
  • Contacts from lead/prospect providers or data enrichment tools: you can use data enrichment tools to build out a contact profile, but they cannot be used to source contact email addresses for emails sent from the marketing email tool.
  • Contacts who emailed you directly: a contact who reaches out to you in a one-to-one email doesn't mean that they consent to bulk communication. You must direct them the contact to convert via a sign-up form to gain explicit opt-in consent.

Other common scenarios

The following scenarios do not inherently count as acceptable forms of consent and require further verification with a contact:

  • Friends, family, or past colleagues: having a past relationship with someone does not mean they consent to bulk communication from your new brand, so make sure they've provided one of the acceptable methods of consent before sending them a marketing email.
  • Contacts from a trade show or event: contacts who approached your booth and provided their information through a badge scan, gave you their business card, or converted on a form or sign-up sheet meet the opt-in requirements. If however, you obtained a contact's info from a list of attendees provided by the event or trade show organizer, it does not count as opt-in consent, since the contact provided their email address to the organizer, not your brand.
  • Employee lists provided by employer: employers can provide a list of their employees' work-based email addresses for employer provided benefits, such as health insurance. To mitigate the risk to your email health, consider contacting employees in a one-to-one email to gain opt-in consent, and enable double opt-in to confirm their consent.
  • Contacts acquired through a brand merger or acquisition: though opt-in is transferable in a brand merger or acquisition, contacts may not be expecting to hear from your new brand. To protect your email health, notifying customers of the brand acquisition and allow them to reconfirm their opt-in status for the new brand.
  • Contacts you met in person: since HubSpot requires verifiable opt-in consent, you should direct any contacts you meet in person to an electronic or paper conversion. Verbal consent is not verifiable and does not meet HubSpot's requirements for sending marketing emails.
  • Role-based email addresses: if you email a group address that's associated with a company, department, or group, it's often forwarded to multiple people instead of a specific individual. As a result, you cannot gain verifiable consent from a role-based email address.

If you're still struggling to understand if your contact sourcing and consent practices meet HubSpot's requirements, reach out to your HubSpot Customer Success Manager or reach out to HubSpot support.

Please note: the above information will help you follow HubSpot's Acceptable Use Policy. Local laws may have additional requirements. Your legal team is the best resource to consult if you have questions regarding your local laws.

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