On December 16, 2003, Congress signed the CAN-SPAM Act into law. The goal was to define what is legally permissible with respect to marketing and advertising via email and lay out penalties for illicit bulk emailers. But spammers aren’t the only ones who need to pay attention.
Any marketers who are planning an email campaign should familiarize themselves with the laws set forth by the act, and establish guidelines for your staff and vendors to follow. For the most part, the email marketing laws are simply common sense. You would expect, for example, that the subject line clearly establishes what the email is about, and that the sender does not try to hide his or her identity from you.
Here are some key points:
- Don’t use false or misleading header information — “From” and “Reply to” fields must accurately reflect the identity of the sender.
- Don’t use deceptive subject lines.
- Identify the message as an advertisement.
- Include the physical address of your business in your message.
- Include an opt-out option, and honor opt-out requests promptly.
The CAN-SPAM Act also says that you are responsible for communications that others send out on your behalf. So if you have an agency or vendor creating email communications for you, make sure they understand and comply with the act or you will be liable for any infractions.
What types of communications are covered?
The laws make a distinction between “commercial” content and “transactional or relationship” content. A transactional or relationship message deals with a transaction that the recipient has already agreed to, or concerns an existing business relationship. These communications may be exempt from some of the provisions of the act. But all business communications must provide accurate header information no matter which category they fall under.
Download the full CAN-SPAM Act Business Compliance Guide in PDF format.
Microsoft.com offers some helpful dos and don’ts for email campaigns.
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