How to Comply With the CAN-SPAM Act (and Avoid Huge Fines)

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Spam is a lot pricier than you think.

No, we’re not talking about Hormel’s canned meat product. We mean email spam, the kind you get that’s full of “great deals” on all kinds of dubious products. No one likes receiving spam, but did you know that unsolicited business emails can cost their senders thousands of dollars if they violate the CAN-SPAM act? If you didn’t (or if you’re not sure what the CAN-SPAM act is), don’t worry. We’ll fill you in. e-mail spam closeup

How to Comply With the Law

Congress passed the Can-SPAM Act back in 2003, but it always pays to be mindful of a law where each email in violation could cost you $16,000. So here’s how you can ensure that your commercial emails comply with the act:

  • Your “To,” “From,” and routing information need to accurately represent who sent the email.
  • Email headers and subject lines must not be deceptive.
  • Commercial emails must be identified as an ad.
    • (More on what constitutes a “commercial” ad below.)
  • You must display your physical mailing address in your email.
  • Emails must provide an unsubscribe option.
  • Honor opt-outs within 10 business days.
  • Be aware of what others are doing on your behalf.
    • If you contract out your marketing and they violate CAN-SPAM, you can be held accountable for their actions.

What Makes an Email “Commercial”?

Not every business email you send is considered “commercial.” The important distinction is the main purpose of the email. The CAN-SPAM act distinguishes between three kinds of emails:

  1. Commercial: These are emails whose main purpose is to advertise for or promote your company. These emails must comply with CAN-SPAM.
  2. Transactional: Messages customers would expect to receive because of transactions they’ve made with you, like receipts and confirmation emails.
  3. Other/Relationship: Emails that don’t fit into the previous two categories. (Note: These emails don’t have to comply with CAN-SPAM so long as the email’s primary purpose isn’t commercial).

Remember:  Nobody Likes Spam…

It’s a fun song, and some people even like the food, but nobody likes unsolicited commercial emails. So whether you’re sending out marketing messages, or you’ve contracted another company to do so for you, keep in mind that there could be a $16,000 fee the next time you’re about to hit that “Send” button.