Email marketing is a powerful and effective way to reach your audience and promote your products or services. But before you hit the send button, you need to make sure that your email campaigns comply with the CAN-SPAM Act, a federal law that sets the rules and standards for commercial email messages.
In this blog, we will explain what the CAN-SPAM Act is, how it affects email marketers, and how to follow its requirements and best practices.
By the end of this blog, you will have a better understanding of how to create CAN-SPAM compliant email campaigns that respect your recipients’ rights and preferences.
What is the CAN-SPAM policy?
The CAN-SPAM Act, which stands for Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing, is a law passed in 2003 that establishes the United States’ first national standards for the sending of commercial email messages. Enforcement of the law’s provisions is the responsibility of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
The CAN-SPAM Act applies to any email message that is primarily intended for commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service. This includes email messages that promote content on commercial websites, such as newsletters, blogs, or social media posts. The law does not apply to transactional or relationship messages, such as order confirmations, shipping notifications, or customer service response.
History of CAN-SPAM
The CAN-SPAM Act was enacted in response to the growing problem of unwanted and unsolicited commercial email messages, also known as spam. Spam not only annoys and frustrates email users, but also poses security and privacy risks, such as phishing, malware, identity theft, and fraud.
Before the CAN-SPAM Act, there was no uniform federal law regulating commercial email messages. Instead, there were various state laws that differed in their definitions, requirements, and penalties for spam. This created confusion and inconsistency for both email senders and recipients.
In the early 2000s, inboxes were flooded with spam, leading to a collective frustration among email users. To address this issue, the U.S. government enacted the CAN-SPAM Act in 2003, providing a legal framework to curb the excesses of spam and establish rules for commercial email.
The journey from its inception to today has seen CAN-SPAM adapt to the evolving digital landscape. Amendments have been made to encompass new technologies and trends, making it a dynamic and relevant set of regulations for email marketers in the 21st century.
The CAN-SPAM Act aimed to provide a clear and consistent framework for commercial email messages, as well as to protect the rights and choices of email recipients. The law also gave the FTC the authority to establish rules and guidelines for implementing and enforcing the CAN-SPAM Act.
What are the stipulations of CAN-SPAM?
The CAN-SPAM Act sets forth several rules and requirements for sending commercial email messages. These rules apply to both the sender and the initiator of the message, which means anyone who participates in the design, content, or distribution of the message.
The main rules are:
- Don’t use false or misleading header information. You must accurately identify the person or organisation that sent the message by using the “From,” “To,” “Reply-To,” and routing information, which includes the email address and originating domain name.
- Don’t use deceptive subject lines. The message’s content must be appropriately reflected in the subject line.
- Identify the message as an ad. You have to make it very evident that your communication is an advertisement. You can do this in any reasonable way, such as using a label, a disclaimer, or a disclosure statement.
- Tell recipients where you’re located. Include your current physical postal address in your message. This can be the street address you are currently using, a post office box you have registered with the USPS, or a private mailbox you have registered with an agency that receives commercial mail and is governed by USPS regulations.
- Explain to recipients how they can choose not to receive emails from you in the future. A prominent and unambiguous explanation of how the recipient can choose not to receive emails from you in the future must be included in your communication. You can provide a return email address or another easy Internet-based way to allow people to communicate their choice to you. You can also offer a menu of choices to let the recipient opt out of certain types of messages, but you must include the option to stop all commercial messages from you. Opt-out requests must be complied with within ten business days.
- Keep an eye on the work that others are doing for you. If you hire another company or individual to send email on your behalf, you are still responsible for complying with the CAN-SPAM Act. You must monitor, supervise, and review their activities and ensure that they follow the law.
Who is CAN-SPAM for?
The CAN-SPAM Act applies to anyone who sends commercial email messages to recipients in the United States, regardless of where the sender is located. This includes email marketers, advertisers, publishers, affiliates, agencies, and any other entities that use email as a marketing tool.
The CAN-SPAM Act also applies to any type of commercial email message, whether it is sent to a consumer, a business, or a nonprofit organization. The law does not make any exception for business-to-business email or for email sent to existing customers or subscribers.
However, the CAN-SPAM Act does not apply to transactional or relationship email messages, which are messages that facilitate an agreed-upon transaction or update a customer about an ongoing business relationship. For example, the CAN-SPAM Act does not apply to email messages that confirm a purchase, provide a receipt, deliver a product, respond to a customer inquiry, or notify a customer about a change in terms or features.
How to be CAN-SPAM compliant?
To be CAN-SPAM compliant, you need to follow the rules and requirements of the CAN-SPAM Act, as well as the rules and guidelines issued by the FTC. Here are some tips and best practices to help you comply with the CAN-SPAM Act and create effective and ethical email campaigns:
Use clear and honest header information.
Make sure that your “From,” “To,” “Reply-To,” and routing information accurately identify you and your business. Use a consistent and recognizable sender name and email address that your recipients can trust and associate with you. Avoid using generic or misleading names or addresses that could confuse or deceive your recipients.
Use relevant and accurate subject lines.
Write subject lines that capture the attention and interest of your recipients, but also reflect the content and purpose of your message. Avoid using deceptive or misleading subject lines that could trick or bait your recipients into opening your message. For example, don’t use subject lines that imply a false sense of urgency, a personal relationship, or a misleading offer.
Identify the message as an ad.
Clearly and conspicuously disclose that your message is an advertisement, especially if it is not obvious from the context or the content of the message. You can use various methods to identify your message as an ad, such as using a label, a disclaimer, or a disclosure statement. For example, you can use phrases like “This is an advertisement,” “Sponsored by,” or “Paid for by” to indicate that your message is an ad. You can also use visual cues, such as fonts, colors, or graphics, to distinguish your ad from the rest of your message. However, you should avoid using methods that are too subtle, vague, or hidden, such as using small or light fonts, placing the disclosure at the bottom or the side of the message, or requiring the recipient to scroll or click to see the disclosure.
Include your physical address.
Provide your valid physical postal address in every commercial email message you send. This helps to establish your credibility and legitimacy as a sender, as well as to comply with the law. You can include your address in the footer or the signature of your message, or in a separate section of your message. You can also use a hyperlink or a button that leads to a web page that displays your address, as long as the link or the button is clear and conspicuous.
Include an opt-out mechanism.
Provide a clear and conspicuous way for your recipients to opt out of receiving future email from you. You can use a return email address or another easy Internet-based method, such as a link, a button, a form, or a checkbox, to allow your recipients to communicate their opt-out choice to you. You can also offer a menu of choices to let your recipients opt out of certain types of messages, but you must include the option to stop all commercial messages from you. Honor opt-out requests within 10 business days and not charge any fees, require any information, or ask any questions to process the opt-out requests. You must also not sell, rent, exchange, or transfer the email addresses of the opt-out recipients to anyone else, unless it is necessary to comply with the law or to honor the opt-out request.
Monitor your email activities.
If you hire another company or individual to send email on your behalf, you are still responsible for complying with the CAN-SPAM Act. You must monitor, supervise, and review their email activities and ensure that they follow the law and your instructions. You must also have a written contract or agreement with them that specifies their obligations and responsibilities, as well as your right to audit and terminate their services if they violate the law or your agreement.
Why is it important to follow the CAN-SPAM?
Following the CAN-SPAM Act is not only a legal obligation, but also a good business practice. By complying with the CAN-SPAM Act, you can:
- Avoid penalties and lawsuits. The CAN-SPAM Act is enforced by the FTC, as well as by state attorneys general and other federal agencies. Each separate email in violation of the CAN-SPAM Act is subject to penalties of up to $50,120, so non-compliance can be very costly and damaging for your business. Moreover, you can also face civil lawsuits from recipients, ISPs, or other parties who are harmed by your spam emails.
- Enhance your reputation and trustworthiness. The CAN-SPAM Act helps you to respect your recipients’ rights and preferences, and to provide them with clear and honest information about your business and your offers. This can improve your relationship with your audience, increase your open and click rates, and boost your conversions and sales. On the other hand, sending spam emails can damage your brand image, lower your deliverability, and alienate your potential customers.
- Stay competitive and relevant. The CAN-SPAM Act encourages you to create email campaigns that are relevant, valuable, and engaging for your recipients. By following the best practices and guidelines from the FTC, you can optimize your email content, design, and delivery, and ensure that your messages stand out from the crowd and reach your target audience. Conversely, sending spam emails can make you look unprofessional, outdated, and desperate, and reduce your chances of success.
Email marketing is a valuable and effective way to communicate with your audience and grow your business. However, you need to make sure that your email campaigns comply with the CAN-SPAM Act, a federal law that regulates commercial email messages.
By following the rules and requirements of the CAN-SPAM Act, as well as the best practices and guidelines from the FTC, you can create CAN-SPAM compliant email campaigns that respect your recipients’ rights and preferences, avoid penalties and lawsuits, and enhance your reputation and trustworthiness as a sender.
We hope that this blog has helped you understand what the CAN-SPAM Act is, how it affects email marketers, and how to follow its stipulations and standards.
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