Are you a marketer who uses email to communicate with its audience? If yes, then you must be aware of the CAN-SPAM ACT which applies to both commercial messages as well as bulk emails. The CAN-SPAM ACT or “Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing” was passed by “Federal Trade Commission (FTC)” in 2003 as an anti-spam law. FTC is a federal agency focusing on protecting the audience and promoting competition in the market
Below are the few topics which will be covered in the article:
- What is The CAN-SPAM ACT of 2003?
- What are the provisions of the act?
- How to comply with the CAN-SPAM ACT?
- Penalties attached for violating the act?
What is the CAN-SPAM ACT of 2003?
The definition of CAN-SPAM ACT is given by FTC as a law that not only sets the commercial email rules but also defines the requirements for these messages. Moreover, it gives the audience a right to stop such emails if not needed. Additionally, if the guidelines of the act are violated, a tough penalty is attached to it.
The act applies to bulk email as well. A commercial message is defined as any message sent out through electronic mail whose aim is to promote or advertise a commercial service as well as product. The act is applicable to both B2B and B2C platforms. The act includes any promotional message focused on the general audience and/or businesses.
CAN SPAM ACT has categorized the email content into majorly 3 categories which are briefly discussed below:
Commercial Content: Commercial content includes the content which helps in promoting and advertising a commercial good and/or a service. It also includes the message sent across by a commercial purpose website. Such as mails from Zara or Forever 21. Learn how big brands do Send Time Optimisation to increase their sales with the steps explained.
Transactional Content: Transactional or Relationship content emails are those emails that are sent by a seller after a purchase has been made by a consumer. It provides information about the updates of an ongoing transaction or even on transactions that have been already settled upon. Learn how to send Transactional Emails for free here.
Others: Other content emails refer to those emails which are neither for a transactional and commercial purpose. These include newsletters, offer letters, and many more.
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What are the provisions of the CAN-SPAM Act?
Below are the main requirements of CAN-SPAM ACT which businesses need to abide:
- Header information should not be misleading and false: The information such as “From”, “Reply”, “To” and even the email address and the domain name from which the message is originated should be accurate. Also, one should be able to identify the source from which the message has been originated.
- Subject lines should not be deceptive: The message content should be clearly and accurately reflected in the subject line. I found an article on misleading subject lines here and how they can ruin your user experience in the long run.
- The message should be clearly identified as an advertisement: The act has given the freedom to the businesses to use this, however one should clearly disclose their message as an ad. It means, that companies must specify the messages for advertising/ promotional purposes.
- Information about the location should be given to recipients: A valid and authenticate address of the postal service should be included in the message. This includes the address of the current street or post-office which has been registered with the postal service of the U.S or a private mailbox enrolled under the regulations of the Postal Service via an agency dealing in commercial mails.
- Informing recipients as to how they can opt-out from receiving emails in the future from a particular business: The message should include an explanation for the audience on how to opting out of getting such emails. The message should be readable, understandable, and should be recognized clearly through the help of color, type, and size of the text. Also, it needs to be ensured that these requests are not blocked out on the spam filter. Here is an article we found on FTC site about stopping unsolicited emails, calls etc.
- The requests for opting out should be honored promptly– The opting-out process of the requests in the mechanism should be for a minimum of 30 days after the message has been sent. Also, the requests for opting out should be honored in ten business days. Businesses can also not transfer or sell the recipient’s addresses once they have asked for opting out. Fees cannot be charged by the businesses and personal information except email addresses cannot be asked for. However, email addresses can be transferred to the company which has been hired by the business for helping in complying with the CAN-SPAM.
- Businesses should monitor the activities of third parties– Even if you have hired a third-party company for handling marketing, one cannot run away from their legal responsibility. You need to comply with the laws and both the third party and the company will be held responsible if cannot comply with the act.
Check out our guide on how to use email automation tools
How to comply with the CAN-SPAM ACT?
Below are the few pointers which can help your business in complying with the CAN-SPAM ACT law:
- Transparency – One of the most important objectives is to improve the honesty and transparency between the recipient and company which can be achieved by following the CAN-SPAM ACT provisions. The act states that there should be a correct domain name along with accurate information which should be rotated in the email world. It needs to be ensured that the email subject should reflect the contents of the mail and should not be misleading in any condition.
- Messages should be marked as a promotional content– Emails sent out by the companies should either be marked as for promotional activity or for advertising purpose. This will reduce confusion and will help in segregating the message as an advertisement. It will lead to more clarity and reduce the possibility of misleading the audience.
- Explicit content warning– CAN-SPAM ACT introduced another law under it in 2004 which was called “Adult Labelling Rule” or “Label for Email Messages Containing Sexually Oriented Material”. It is important for companies to label messages as “Sexually Explicit” in the subject. Also, such messages can only be sent to those individuals who have given their permission for such content.
- Email address needs to be included of the company – Business needs to include the postal address as well as their email address with the recipients for email marketing. Each and every single email/message should have these requirements.
- Opting out facility – The recipients always have the option of opting out from the messages that they receive from companies. The businesses should clearly specify the procedure of how consumers can opt-out from promotional/advertising emails. It needs to be ensured that no fees are charged and such action is honored instantly without any delay and conflict.
- Accepting the business responsibility – Both the business (whose good/service is getting promoted) and the third party who is promoting the product/good need to adhere to the CAN-SPAM ACT guidelines. Both parties will be legally responsible if any wrongdoing occurs.
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Penalties attached for violating the act?
Violation of the CAN-SPAM ACT may lead to a penalty of $43,280 at maximum. Also, both parties including the third party from where the email is generated and the company can be held legally responsible for not adhering to the act. Additionally, misleading claims regarding a service or good are subjected to the deceptive advertising laws such as the Sec-5 of FTC ACT. Apart from the monetary penalty, criminal penalties can also be applied which includes imprisonment for the below situations:
- Sending spam messages from someone else’s system without taking permission.
- Registering for various domain names as well as email accounts using incorrect/ false data
- Misleading the audience about the whereabouts of the message origin by retransmitting the spam messages.
- Using open proxies/relays without permission.
- Generating various email addresses by a dictionary attack.
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The Act was passed 17 years ago but its relevance has always been important in current world. Laws such as CAN SPAM ACT helps the businesses to stay transparent in their transactions and help them in dealing with the audiences responsibly. The act helps in protecting consumer rights and keeping in check of their privacy. All the businesses and companies should abide by the laws in the run of profit making.