If you use email marketing in your business, are you aware of the CAN-SPAM Act? Do you know if your utilization of email is compliant with it? The CAN-SPAM Act was established in 2003, and is known as The Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act, as a means to protect consumers from unsolicited emails. This Act has set requirements for commercial messages and gives recipients the right to stop your business from emailing them. If businesses violate the rules set forth by the CAN-SPAM, they can face some extremely serious consequences.
The CAN-SPAM Act applies to all commercial messages, which is defined by law to be “any electronic mail message the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service,” which includes mail promoting any websites. The law also applies to business-to-business email communications and business-to-client communications.
Not sure if your business is abiding by the CAN-SPAM Act? Feeling nervous? Don’t worry! There are several rules you must follow to avoid being penalized by CAN-SPAM, and they’re actually pretty simple.
We break them down for you:
Don’t falsify information in the header: Your header should display only accurate information, including sender, recipient, and originating domain name and address.
Don’t use misleading subject lines: Your subject line should also reflect accurate information, meaning what the content of the message is actually about. For example, let's say your business sells clothing and apparel and your subject line reads “Check out our new sunglasses." Because you’re letting recipients know your email will contain promotional content about your products, this is truthful information. However, using deceptive information in the subject line as a means to entice people to open the email is a violation of these laws.
Identify if the message is an advertisement:
Somewhere in the email you absolutely must let recipients know that this is an ad. You don’t have to outright state this in the subject line or at the beginning, but at the bottom of the message, you can simply include the sentence “This advertisement was sent to you by ____.
Inform recipients where you’re located: If you’re a legit business, you must accurately inform recipients of where you are physically located, including your street address or P.O. box registered with the U.S. Postal Service.
Let recipients opt-out of emails from you: You must include a way for recipients to opt-out of emails from you within every email, and this option must be easy to find and complete. This is usually an unsubscribe button or a reply-to address for them to state their wishes to be unsubscribed. If you use an email marketing program like Mailchimp, this process is a mandatory part of every email, and they track the unsubscribes for you.
Honor opt-out requests: When you get those opt-out requests, you have to honor them promptly. Within 10 business days of receiving those requests, you have to make sure they won’t be sent another commercial email from you. You’re not allowed to charge recipients a fee or ask for their information when they choose to opt-out, and you cannot transfer or sell their email address, even in the form of a mailing list.
Make sure others are following the rules on your behalf
If you hire other employees or a company to handle your email marketing for you, they must be in compliance as well. Both you, the company whose content is in the message, and the person or company responsible for communicating the message are held responsible under the law.
Failure to comply with the rules of the CAN-SPAM Act can result in being fined up to $43,280 per email. To find out if you’re being compliant and if you need more elaboration upon the rules, please see the