The CAN-SPAM Act: Practice Proper E-mail Conduct.
Many of humanity’s greatest inventions come with a price. The automobile, created with noble intentions; i.e; fast and efficient transport across great distances for the masses, introduced side effects like traffic congestion, environmental degradation, and urban sprawl. Similarly, electronic mail communication – while revolutionizing letter writing and commerce – comes with an undesirable side effect that threatens its long-term viability and credibility. Namely, unsolicited commercial e-mail (UCE) commonly referred to as spam.
To regulate business e-mails and combat spam, the United States government passed the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing (CAN-SPAM) Act in 2003. Although other countries have followed suit with similar legislation, the CAN-SPAM Act serves as a common reference point for online marketers throughout the world.
The law sets out four major requirements for people engaging in e-commerce and e-mail marketing in general:
1. Prohibit the sending of false or misleading header information: Your e-mail’s “From”, “To”, and path information must properly identify you as the e-mail communication’s source.
2. Ban deceptive “Subject” lines: The subject line must not mislead the e-mail receiver about its content.
3. Provide recipients with a clear opt-out option: Senders must provide a return e-mail address or an automated method to opt out of future messages, and any such requests must be honored within ten (10) business days.
4. Identify commercial correspondence as advertising, and include the sender’s valid physical postal address.
Reputable third party autoresponder services strictly adhere to the CAN-SPAM Act, and provide resources and support to ensure that you comply with its provisions. Given that the burden of proof rests with e-mail marketers, the performance of autoresponder software – especially free software – should be monitored to ensure that the above four criteria are met.
In most cases, your common sense and ethical business conduct should guarantee that you never run afoul of CAN-SPAM rules. Regardless, don’t be intimidated by legalities; if you face spamming accusations, take all necessary steps to protect yourself, including dropping troublesome subscribers from your list. Most e-mail delivery services enforce a double opt-in requirement for prospects, so you should be protected in most cases.
With great power comes great responsibility. Even casual requests for information can become headaches, so funnel online contacts into your opt-in forms. Similarly, customer purchases do not give you carte blanche to add people to your contact list. Remember to include a check box or equivalent in the order form to obtain explicit permission for follow-ups.
For more details about how the CAN-SPAM Act affects your electronic commerce, please visit: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/business/ecommerce/bus61.shtm
Rahul Majumdar is an Information Marketer specializing in article marketing, list-building, and digital product creation. Sign up for more of his insights here.