Signed into law by President George W. Bush on December 16, 2003, the CAN-SPAM Act or “CAN-SPAM” established the United States’ first national standards for the sending of commercial e-mail. Under the act, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) was given the responsibility to enforce its provisions.
What is the purpose of CAN-SPAM?
As private citizens, we’re all familiar with what it feels like to get unwanted email. It can be frustrating and annoying. The CAN-SPAM act gives recipients the legal right to require businesses to stop sending email to them. CAN-SPAM also plays a role in protecting a sender’s reputation by weeding out those who are reputable and abide by the law and those who don’t. SPAM has costly financial implications as well. The FTC uses CAN-SPAN to combat that, penalizing offenders with fines up to $16,000 for each separate email.
What are the rules for CAN-SPAM?
The basic tenets of the Act are:
- The use of accurate header information to correctly identify the origins of the message.
- The use of subject lines that reflect message content.
- The clear identification of a commercial message as an advertisement.
- The inclusion of a valid physical postal address.
- The inclusion of opt-out measures.
- Prompt and effective action on opt-out requests within 10 business days which in no way inconveniences the recipient.
- The sender assumes responsibility for the message even if a third party vendor is contracted to execute the service.
Does CAN-SPAN apply to bulk email only?
Though bulk email is often thought of as an obvious hideout for wannabe spammers, it’s not the only kind of email sending practice CAN-SPAM covers. All commercial electronic messages used for the promotion or advertisement of any product, service or website content are covered by the CAN-SPAM Act. But CAN-SPAM doesn’t apply to every electronic message a company sends. “Transactional” or “relationship” messages are free from CAN-SPAM regulations. Some commercial messages, however, can contain a mix of promotional, transactional and/or relationship messages. And that’s where things get a little sticky. Determining whether a message is in fact promotional or not can come down to how it is reasonably interpreted. And this interpretation isn’t just based on the words used in a commercial email. It includes where on the page content in question is located, what kind of graphics are used, even font size. The FTC does a good job of explaining these gray areas and answering other CAN-SPAM compliance FAQs with this brief guide.
More Essential Email Resources
Develop your email industry expertise and master best practices with SparkPost’s email resources.
The Big Rewards of Email Deliverability
Learn how third-party data shows the deliverability difference between SparkPost and also-ran cloud service providers yields hard, bottom-line benefits.read more