The battle for the inbox rages on!
As the rampant onslaught of spam clangs swords with the major ESP gatekeepers, the CAN-SPAM Act1 plays enforcer, regulating and penalizing the sending of unlawful/misleading junk mail.
Believe it or not, sending just one email to the wrong inbox could land you $16,000 in the hole. Sound outrageous? The Bureau of Consumer Protection doesn’t think so: This watchful branch of the Federal Trade Commission has done everything in its power to defend inboxes from spam.
This article contains what you need to know to avoid a hefty fine and keep your sender reputation in the green.
CAN-SPAM and You
Passed in 2003, the CAN-SPAM Act (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act) is, by definition, "a law that sets the rules for commercial email, establishes requirements for commercial messages, gives recipients the right to have you stop emailing them, and spells out tough penalties for violations."
One common misconception about the CAN-SPAM Act is that it outright bans spamming. If only it were that simple; in point of fact, it bans the use of deceptive email marketing techniques pertaining to email formatting, content and "materially false or misleading" subject lines and headers.
Like we said, each individual email in violation of the CAN-SPAM Act can cost you as well as your Email Service Provider (ESP) upwards of $16,000. Send one email blast to 100 displeased recipients and you’re looking at $16,000 X 100—a crippling penalty to say the least.
While you may think that this doesn’t apply to you because you’re an honest mailer, know this: most people send spam mail without knowing it’s spam.
The Fine Print
Follow these simple guidelines as spelled out by the CAN-SPAM Act to practice safe and lawful mailing:
No misleading "from" line: It must accurately identify the sender.
No misleading header: It must have an IP, domain, and originating email address that were not obtained by false or fraudulent pretenses so the identification of the person or company sending the messages can be determined.
No deceptive subject lines: You can’t send an email that will knowingly mislead a recipient regarding the contents or subject matter of the message.
Must include return email address: It is illegal to send email with omitted or non-functioning return email address.
There are two additional requirements: There must be a way for the recipient to opt-out of an email address that the message was sent from AND have that email address be capable of receiving opt-out request 30 days after the transmission of the original message.
You can omit the first requirement if a menu/form for recipient to choose which types of messages to be omitted from is included, but it must also include an option to be removed from ALL mailings.
"Sender does not fail to satisfy the requirements if it is unexpectedly and temporarily unable to receive messages or process requests due to a technical problem beyond the control of the sender if the problem is corrected within a reasonable time period." This provides the sender with some leniency when it comes to situations they cannot fully control.
If client chooses to opt-out using any means, then it is illegal to:
Continue sending email after 10 days of receiving the opt-out request.
To sell, exchange, lease or transfer the email address of said contact after receiving an opt-out request.
Charge for an opt-out.
Ask for additional personal information before opting out (besides email address).
It is illegal to send email to a protected computer unless: It includes an identifier for advertisements or solicitations (unless you have been given consent to mail), an opt-out option, and a valid postal address.
Any email containing sexually oriented material must contain a warning label: As the Bureau of Consumer Protection puts it: "This provision makes sure that recipients cannot view sexually explicit content without an affirmative act on their part – for example, scrolling down or clicking on a link. However, this requirement does not apply if the person receiving the message has already given affirmative consent to receive the sender’s sexually oriented messages."
1 CAN-SPAM applies to mailers based in the US only. For mailing regulations based in Australia, see Spam Act 2003
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