Every day, I receive email after email that violates the CAN-SPAM law. I’m sure most of the offenders have no idea that they’re breaking a federal law or opening up their company to the risk of a fine of up to $40,654. But as the old saying goes, ignorance of the law does not exonerate your guilt. So I’m going to help break things down to help you understand the law.
There are a few main components of the law:
- Your header information must be accurate. Your “From,” “To,” and “Reply-To,” information – including the originating domain name and email address – must be correct and identify the person or business who sent the message.
- Deceptive subject lines are a no-no. The subject line must accurately reflect the what the email is about. Think of this requirement like link-bait on Facebook and other social media outlets. That’s the practice of putting in a headline that’ll get someone to click the link, but then the story isn’t what the headline promised. That’s not something to do on social media OR in your email blasts.
- Let folks know the message is an ad. There’s not a specific requirement on HOW you should do this, according to the law, but you must disclose in a clearly visible way that your message is an advertisement.
- You must include your physical address. This can be your current street address, a P.O. Box you’ve registered with the USPS, or a private mailbox you’ve rented through a facility like the UPS Store or the like. But it’s got to be an address currently associated with your business.
- Tell recipients how to stop receiving emails from you. Your message must include an explanation of how the recipient can opt out of getting email from you in the future. It must be easy to understand and easy to execute. It can be an opt-out link within the email or instructions on whether to reply or email another address and what to include in that message.
- Remove opt-outs quickly. Opt-out requests must be removed from your email blast list within 10 business days. Any way you offer folks to opt-out must be able to process those requests for at least 30 days after you send your message. You cannot charge to remove people from your list, require the recipient to give you any personally identifying information beyond an email address, or make the recipient take any step other than sending a reply email or visiting a single page on an Internet website as a condition for honoring an opt-out request. Once people have told you they don’t want to receive more messages from you, you can’t sell or transfer their email addresses, even in the form of a mailing list. The only exception is that you may transfer the addresses to a company you’ve hired to help you comply with the CAN-SPAM Act.
- If you have a company doing your email marketing for you, YOU are still responsible for the law being followed by your blasts. You can’t contract away your legal responsibility to comply with the law. Both the company being promoted in the message and the company that actually sends the message can be held legally responsible.
While the law does not specifically require opt-ins, having people specifically agree to hear from you is still your safest bet when growing your email list. Email providers make it incredibly easy to report spam to them. So even if recipients are not reporting you to the FTC, they may still be reporting you to their email provider…which could be worse in the long run. Enough reports and email providers will start to automatically send ALL emails associated with your domain to recipients’ spam/junk folders.