There are tens of thousands of marketers practicing email marketing in the country, delivering promotional and/or informational messages to recipients on their subscriber lists. However, as a March 2006 WebSurveyor poll reveals, only 81% of these email marketers are aware of the rules, regulations and the law behind their practice, as specified in the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing (CAN SPAM) Act of 2003, which became effective January 1st of 2004.
Because of this staggering statistic, I thought it was important to summarize the law’s primary provisions so that more individuals could comply to the law and continue their email marketing campaigns with confidence. It is my hope that I can at least decrease this statistic from 81% to 80% of email marketers being unaware of an important law in their area of business.
The CAN-SPAM Act spells out the legal requirements for those who send commercial email, and the penalties for the spammers. It covers email whose primary purpose is advertisement or promotion of a product or service, including online content. Under the act, email marketers are:
- prohibited from lying to or misleading recipients in the header section of the message. Your email’s “From” lines should include the originating domain name and email address of the email, as well as correct routing information (this means that you shouldn’t hack the message’s header to manipulate the email to look as if it came from somewhere other than its originating location). The “From” line should also include the sender’s name or company name.
- prohibited from using deceptive or misleading subject lines. This information should not lead the recipient to believe that the contents of the message are something different than what is actually in there. For example, a message promoting a product or service should not have the subject line, “Hi John! It was nice to see you yesterday,” or anything similar.
- required to provide an opt out method in the message. Somewhere in the email should explain how the subscriber can opt out of the list, either through an unsubscribe link, replying to the email, or another method.
- required to honor opt out requests within 10 days: the email marketer has ten days from the time the subscriber opts out to stop sending the recipient messages.
- banned from selling or transfer the email addresses of your subscribers or those who have opted out of your list.
- required to label commercial email as an advertisement.
- required to include the sender’s valid physical postal address in the message.
It is important to point out that using an email marketing service provider (ESP) or email campaign management tool can help you comply with the CAN SPAM Act, as well as keep up with any new laws or best practices for email marketing that you should be aware of. For more information about ESPs, be sure to visit a prior post of mine, 8 Reasons Why YOU Need an ESP.