The CAN-SPAM Act

CAN-SPAM stands for Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing.  The CAN-SPAM act is the first set of national standards for the sending of commercial email. It also requires the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) to enforce its provisions. It exempts only transactional and personal messages. It was put in place to protect email users and consumers from getting bombarded with unsolicited messages.

There are several key points to this law; un-subscriptions, content and sending behavior are a few. To be in compliance with the law concerning un-subscriptions you must have a visible and operable un-subscribe link or button in ALL emails and opt out requests must be honored within 10 days. To be in compliance via content, you must have accurate “from” lines, relevant subject lines, legitimate physical address of publisher/advertiser listed and a warning label present if the message includes adult content. To comply with sending behavior rules, the message cannot be sent through an open relay and it cannot contain a false header.

The actual law and legal language is very long and tedious to read and understand so the FTC published a compliance guide for businesses. Here are the 7 principles from the compliance guide that was published on the FTC website.

  1. Don’t use false or misleading header information.
  2. Don’t use deceptive subject lines.
  3. Identify the message as an advertisement.
  4. Tell the recipients where you are physically located.
  5. Tell the recipients how to opt out of receiving future messages from you.
  6. Honor all opt out requests promptly.
  7. Monitor what others are doing on your behalf. Even if you contract out your business’s email marketing, you cannot contract away your legal responsibility.

Being aware of the law and legislation concerning email marketing is important, as it can be very costly when you are non-compliant. Failing to adhere to the CAN-SPAM act ordinances can cost up to $16,000 for each separate email that is in violation. Depending on the violation, there is even a chance of imprisonment.

There are a lot of restrictions and rules in the CAN-SPAM Act, but there are a few holes. There are no restrictions against a company emailing existing customers or anyone who has inquired about products/services, even if they have not given explicit permission to be sent email messages. These are considered ‘relationship messages’ under CAN-SPAM.

The CAN-SPAM act is important, and if you follow the common sense guidelines, your email will be in the clear. The CAN-SPAM act helps email users eliminate the bad messages to get to the ones they want and have signed up for, messages like yours.

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