Email Marketing and CAN-SPAM Regulation

E-mail marketing and automation have become one of the most effective forms of Internet marketing. A well-planned e-mail marketing campaign can inexpensively reach thousands of customers and prospects at one time. However, since 2003 companies using this form of communication must comply with the CAN-SPAM (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing) Act. Penalties can be as high as $16,000 for each distinct e-mail in violation. Unfortunately, most businesses who find themselves out of compliance did so unintentionally.

Key Features of this Legislation:

  1. All “Commercial” e-mails must comply. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) considers a “commercial” e-mail any electronic correspondence whose “primary purpose” is commercial. CAN-SPAM applies to any e-mail that advertises your business or promotes your products or services.
  2. Headers, domain names and subject lines must not be deceptive. The recipient should clearly be able to see who sent the e-mail and what it is about. Misleading “from” fields are considered violations.
  3. Advertisements should be stated as such. If your e-mail includes an ad, it should be clear to the reader.
  4. Include your postal address in the body of the e-mail. This one gets past many marketers because it just doesn’t always make sense to include a postal address, especially for completely online businesses. Nevertheless, it’s required.
  5. Give readers the chance to unsubscribe. CAN-SPAM requires that you include an unsubscribe option and grant those requests within 10 business days. You must also keep the unsubscribe tool active and able to process requests for 30 days after the original e-mail is sent.
  6. Some guidelines apply to non-commercial e-mails. While e-mails that are strictly transactional, such as shipping information or payment receipts, are not considered “commercial,” some of the guidelines still apply. You still have to use clear language in the “to” and “from” fields, as well as in the e-mail address and domain names.
  7. You can be held accountable for a third party. If you use a third party to distribute your e-mail and maintain your subscription list, be sure they are reputable company like Predictive Response. A third party service must be in compliance as well, you are still accountable for their actions.