MailChimp Terms of Use have you Scratching Your Head? - Fischer IT Solutions
Confused about the new MailChimp Terms of Use? This should help.

The recent email from “Mailchimp Legal” yesterday regarding changes to the MailChimp Terms of Use has some of our clients very concerned.

Let’s break down the recent changes to the MailChimp Terms of Use and dig into how they might impact your business if you’re using their services.

Good news – it’s not nearly as scary as the email makes it sound.

With that being said, it is complicated and you should take a close look at your account to make sure there aren’t any unexpected surprises as they roll out these changes.

Existing clients will receive an email from us early next week which summarizes any potential concerns. You don’t have to take any action for this to occur. 

If you’re not client of ours, you can still request a free MailChimp account review from us by clicking the blue button:

If DIY is more your style, read on!

FYI, MailChimp renamed “Lists” to “Audiences” in March 2019. This is really just because they are evolving past being just a mailing list company and Audiences makes more sense when you’re describing a group who is receiving other communications like display ads, or using MailChimp as a substitute for a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system. 

Essentially, the changes impact three areas of the MailChimp Terms of Use. I’m just going to focus on the email that we received, if you want to read the new terms in full, they are at:

We’re going to be digging into three topics today:

MailChimp Pricing

Free Plan

One of the things we love about MailChimp for small business is their Freemium pricing model. It’s a win-win, a new business gets to use their entry-level plan for free with basic functionality, and as MailChimp helps them grow their audience they can slowly move into the paid plans as their audiences grow.

If you signed up after May 14, 2019 or are thinking about it:

The Free tier is still available for new signups, with some minor changes outlined in the new MailChimp Terms of Use:

  • You need to remain below the ceiling of 2,000 or fewer total contacts in your audience (just like before, however they will be counting contacts differently beginning June 15th – see How MailChimp Counts your Contacts for more info
  • You need to remain below the ceiling of 10,000 emails sent per month (this used to be 12,000)

If you signed up Before May 15, 2019:

If you signed up for the Forever Free Plan prior to May 15th, it’s now called the Legacy Free Plan.

  • You can keep this plan as long as you send no more than 12,000 emails per month and have no more than 2,000 total contacts. There is also a sending limit of 2,000 emails in a 24-hour period.
  • When you choose to upgrade to a paid plan, you’ll choose from the current new monthly plans.
  • The Legacy Free Plan will begin counting every contact toward your limit of 2,000 – see How MailChimp Counts your Contacts for more info.
  • If you exceed the 2,000 contact limit in your Legacy Free Plan, a hold will be placed on sending live email campaigns or test emails until you upgrade to a paid plan, or reduce your contact count. You’ll still be able to work on your email campaigns and collect and import new contacts.

If you’re using or considering either of the Free plans with the intention of paying when you get to more than 2,000 contacts, you need to be aware of something…

The MailChimp Pricing “Starting at” prices for Standard and Essential plans are based on only 500 contacts.

This means that if you move up because of your contacts, you’re going to need to buy the 2500 contact Plan which is around 3-times the price you’re seeing on the website.

We really want to help you avoid this. Take a moment and Submit a FREE support request and we’ll be happy to talk through your options before you sign up or make changes.

Monthly Paid Plans

If you had a paid account prior to May 15th, you now have what they are calling a Legacy Monthly Plan.

  • This is a recurring plan which charges a monthly subscription based on total subscribed contacts or sending volume.
  • If you have less than 52,000 contacts, pricing tiers are based on the number of subscribed contacts in your account.
  • If you have over 52,000 contacts, you may be bumped to a higher tier to keep your total monthly sending volume below 12-times the total number of contacts you pay for.
  • Recipients count toward your monthly bill if you’ve sent to them in the past 30 days.

New monthly subscribers first choose the features that they need, pricing is then determined for the chosen tier by the total number of contacts.

Pay as you Go

MailChimp continues to offer a Pay as you Go options for infrequent senders, such as businesses who send quarterly newsletters or only promote seasonal events. It is same as their new Essential Plan, however you pay for blocks of credit for email sends instead of paying a monthly recurring fee.

  • The Pay As You Go plan uses email credits that you purchase to cover your sending needs.
  • Each email sent to an individual contact costs one credit. Credits expire after 12 months.
  • Credits are used for any attempted email send, including test emails, automations, and emails that bounced or were stopped due to compliance review. (Credits are not deducted for signup form response emails.)

Thinking about switching to or from MailChimp Pay as you Go? Here are some details to consider:

  • If you move from Pay as you Go to a monthly billing plan, any remaining credits are applied toward your monthly bill.
  • If you move from Free to Pay as you Go, any free sends remaining in your account are lost.
  • If you purchase Pay as You Go credits while on a monthly paid plan, you’ll stop being billed for your monthly plan and will be Pay as you Go until you select a new plan.

How MailChimp Counts your Contacts

This change in the MailChimp Terms of Use actually has the most potential to ruin your day.

Your total number of contacts impacts your monthly billing and sending limits, so it’s important to both understand how they are counted and to maintain your audience list.

MailChimp classifies each contact as one of the following:

  • subscribed (someone who has opted-in to receive email marketing)
  • unsubscribed (someone who was previously subscribed but who has opted-out)
  • non-subscribed (someone who has interacted with your connected e-commerce store but not opted-in to email communications)
  • cleaned (someone whose email address is bouncing back as undeliverable)
  • archived (someone who has been removed from your marketing audience)

Archiving is a new feature which was recently launched in anticipation of the new pricing models – it allows you to move contacts away from your marketing audience (and stop paying for them) without losing the history for that contact.

Archived contacts are not counted toward your limit. You can archive non-subscribed or cleaned contacts to lower your total number of contacts.  As long as a contact remains archived, you won’t be able to edit their profile or send them any marketing communications. However, you’ll retain all of their data, including identifiable information in campaign reports.

The only contacts which do not count toward your billing are the archived ones.

Yes, every other contact – even the ones who can’t receive email from you if you were to try – will count toward your bill unless you archive them!

So, archive your old contacts. It’s important. If they choose to opt-in again, they automatically move back to the appropriate classification.It’s also important to recognize that if you have multiple audiences, a contact is counted once for each audience that they appear in. For example, if a subscriber’s email address appears in three different audiences, it is counted three times.It’s rare that multiple audiences are necessary. if you are using more than one audience you should have us explore whether there is a better option for you.

The MailChimp Data Processing Addendum (DPA)

The MailChimp DPA explains their contractual obligations as a data processor under the GPDR (General Data Protection Regulation) which applies to companies which either operate within or distribute content to subscribers tho are located in a member state of the European Economic Area, the United Kingdom, or Switzerland.

MailChimp previously required a signed GPDR agreement – they have now streamlined their process so that this is no longer necessary.

By using their service and accepting their Terms of Use, you are also now agreeing to their Data Processing Agreement which is incorporated by reference the the Terms of Use.

Still confused about the new MailChimp Terms of Use and how it will affect you? We can help.

Get a FREE MailChimp Account Review



Ken Fischer

Ken has been providing tech support and advice for more than 20 years. He started out as a dial-up support tech way back in 1998, and after working for a few companies decided to start Fischer IT Solutions back in 2012. Even though he runs the company, you'll still catch him on the phone solving problems for our small business clients.