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Email How-To Tip

Q: How can I query my subscribers for explicit subscription consent?

One of the key requirements formulated by the EU GDPR is that email marketers must make sure to only accept subscriptions for people who have explicitly given their consent to the marketer to use their profiles for the purposes of email marketing. This means that, contrary to previous practice, pre-checked checkboxes or otherwise unclear or confusing choices on the signup screen must be avoided.

To achieve this with LISTSERV Maestro, you add a new field to your list:

With the predefined data type "Consent to Subscription Terms", the new list field behaves similarly to the "Boolean" field type.

Like the Boolean field, it is shown to the subscriber in the form of a checkbox. This default presentation can be changed to a drop-down menu through customization. However, contrary to standard Boolean fields, the subscriber receives a suitable error message if the field value is "false". This means that a new subscription is only accepted if the subscriber ticks the checkbox or chooses the "Yes" value from the menu in case the field was customized to be rendered as a drop-down menu.

We now use the field's description to give information about the terms and conditions that the subscriber is supposed to agree to:

This example shows the traditional method of referring the subscriber to a linked page that contains the terms and conditions. At first glance, this approach appears favorable over copying the condition text verbatim into the field description. However, modern privacy laws such as the GDPR require that you keep a record not only of the fact that the person gave consent to subscribe to your newsletter but also of the actual terms that were valid at the specific time when the consent was given.

The field type "Consent to Subscription Terms" has an additional feature to accommodate this requirement. Each time a subscription is stored, a special entry is written to the subscription change log, and this special entry also contains the consent field's description at the time the entry was written.

So instead of linking to an external page with the actual subscription terms, you should copy the current terms into the field's description, as shown in the amended example below:

In this example, the text for the subscription terms is too long to fit into the default layout of the public signup page. With some minor customization (and with changing the list's containing dataset to not ask for a subscription password), the signup page looks like the example below:

If a subscriber tries to click the "OK" button without ticking the checkbox, the following error message is shown:

As you can see, the subscription is not accepted. If the subscriber instead ticks the checkbox and clicks "OK", LISTSERV Maestro initiates the usual double-opt-in confirmation process to verify the given email address and to once again ask the user to confirm the subscription.

(Important Legal Disclaimer: The field description with the sample subscription terms shown in the screenshots above is not intended in any way as a template for your own subscription terms. Writing legally correct subscription terms that can also be easily understood by your subscribers is a difficult task. Please ask your legal counsel for help and do not use the sample text shown above for your own purposes.)

Until now we have shown how to collect explicit consent from new subscribers signing up through the list's signup page. But how about your existing subscriber base? You may have noticed above that we skipped the "Default Values" tab. On this tab, you decide how to set the field's value for existing subscribers:

Choose "True" here (i.e. tick the checkbox) only if you have a record of consent for your existing subscribers. Usually, however, since many privacy laws did not require this previously, such a record of consent does not exist and your only safe decision at this moment would be to not tick the checkbox, which basically means that none of your subscribers have given consent to the subscription previously.

LISTSERV Maestro allows you to add a new consent field in such a way that all existing subscribers have the value "False". By not ticking the checkbox, you effectively prepare your list for a campaign that is widely known in the email marketing field as a "Reengagement Campaign" or "Resubscription Campaign". You can use the other, well known features of LISTSERV Maestro to send a special message to your list subscribers that informs them about the changes in legislation and asks them to log in to your membership area and to update their profiles. Alternatively, you can provide your subscribers with a custom link to a special profile update page by employing the {{*ProfileEditPageURL}} system drop-in. Using LISTSERV Maestro's follow-up job capabilities, you can easily send reminder messages to subscribers who have still not given their consent. Finally, after a carefully chosen notice period, you should delete all subscribers who still have the value "F" in their consent fields.

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