The Japanese Law on Regulation of Transmission of Specified Electronic Mail (the Specified E-mail Regulation) and the Act on Specified Commercial Transactions (ASCT) were each amended effective December 1, 2008. The amendments clarify that the legislation applies to any commercial e-mails directed to recipients in Japan, even if sent from a source hosted outside Japan, and telecommunications facilities located in Japan.  

The amendments changed the structure of the legislation from an “opt-out” to an “opt-in” regime. The amended Specified E-mail Regulation prohibits commercial e-mail from being sent to recipients unless they have (1) consented to receiving commercial e-mails, (2) provided their e-mail addresses to the sender, (3) a business transaction relationship with the source of the commercial e-mail, or (4) engaged in commercial activities and make their e-mail addresses public on the Internet. Commercial e-mails must include the identity of the sender, including name and address, and the sender’s contact information (e-mail address, phone number, or URL) to send requests to unsubscribe, and make claims and inquiries.  

The ASCT amendment provides that unsolicited e-mail related to Tsushin-Hanbai (mail order and/or teleshopping services) may only be sent to recipients who have requested advertisements related to sales terms and conditions of the relevant goods or services or entered into a contract (or offered to do so) for the goods or services.  

Consent and records for sales must be retained pursuant to ministerial ordinance. Violation of the Specified E-mail Regulation is punishable by imprisonment up to one year or a fine up to 30 million yen, and ASCT carries a penalty of imprisonment or fine, as determined by the Minister’s order.