CCS Blog

Understanding Email Regulations

by Jim Martin

Are you marketing through email? The government has a federal law called CAN-SPAM whose extensive regulations cover advertising emails, or, as they’re better known, SPAM. Since each separate email in violation of the CAN-SPAM Act is subject to penalties of up to $40,654, non-compliance can be costly. But following the law isn’t complicated. Here’s a brief rundown of CAN-SPAM’s main requirements:

False or misleading header information is forbidden. The sender, addressee and routing information (including the reply-to email address) must all accurately identify the person and business from which the message was sent.

Deceptive subject lines are banned. You can’t claim your sales pitch is actually a search for lost heirs or a chance to win millions (unless, of course, those claims are true).

The message must be identified as an ad. This disclosure must be clear and conspicuous, but the details of how this is accomplished can be wide ranging. However, it cannot be hidden, disguised or otherwise shielded from the recipient.

You must tell the addressee where you are located. You must have a valid mailing address that is connected with the business. It may be your street address, a box at a U.S. Post Office or a box at a commercial agency establish in accordance with Postal Service regulations.

You must tell recipients how to cancel all future emails. You must clearly state how the recipient can opt out of your future mailings. It must be easily recognized and understood. You must provide either an email address or an easily actuated link. If you offer a menu which enables the recipient to opt out of different types of mailings, one of the options must be “all.” Ensure that your spam filter doesn’t reject these responses. Ensure that you implement these requests promptly. You must be able to process response to an email for at least thirty days after it is sent. You cannot require a fee or ask for additional personal information. After someone has opted out, you cannot sell or otherwise distribute their email address. That means it must be removed from any mailing lists you plan to share.

Monitor what others do for you. Hiring someone else to handle your email program does not absolve you of the responsibility for compliance. You have to ensure that your contractor is doing what the law specifies.

An aggressive email program can dramatically boost sales, but you can’t afford to have the additional profits disappear into non-compliance penalties. Follow the rules.