Every webmaster hears this request from their clients: “I want to send an email campaign blast to all of my customers and contacts.” The webmaster’s first question should be, “Will the email campaigns attempt to sell or advertise anything to the recipients?” Regardless of the answer, the client should immediately be made aware of the CAN-SPAM Act, which is enforced by the Federal Trade Commission. Even a single email sent by an employee to a single customer could fall under the CAN-SPAM act if it attempts to promote a product or service. If you’re working with a sole proprietor or a small business, it’s almost guaranteed they’ve never heard of CAN-SPAM, which was actually signed into law in 2003.
Essentially, the CAN-SPAM act requires anyone sending electronic messages containing advertising to adhere to specific rules. According to the FTC’s web page guide for CAN-SPAM, if the email “advertises or promotes a commercial product or service, including content on a website operated for a commercial purpose” it must adhere to specific rules. Additionally, the page states if the message contains no advertising or promotions, it still must “not contain false or misleading routing information”.
A summary of the requirements from the FTC guidelines page is listed below; however, this article is not to be considered legal advice. Only an attorney or the FCC/FTC can provide advice on this matter. Additionally, the rules could change from time to time, so it would be prudent to review the guidelines on a regular basis if email campaigns are being used.
Summary of CAN-SPAM Act Requirements For Email Campaigns
- The data in the “From”, “To”, “Reply-To” and email header routing information must accurately identify the person or business initiating the message.
- The subject line of the message must indicate the actual content of the message.
- The message must conspicuously state that it is an advertisement or promotion.
- A physical address where the business may be contacted via U. S. Mail must be included in the message: current street address, P. O. Box or PMB (private mail box available at shipping stores).
- Give the recipient a conspicuous way to opt out of receiving future emails.
- If the recipient initiates an opt-out request, DO NOT send the recipient any further messages.
- Make sure third parties who may be sending messages at your request are adhering to the CAN-SPAM rules. You are still responsible for adhering to the law even if you hire an advertising agency, mailing house, or email campaign service (such as Mailchimp) to send emails on your behalf
The FTC’s CAN-SPAM web page states the penalty for each separate email in violation can rack up fines of $16,000.00! Potentially, sending just 10 emails in violation could cost the sender $160,000.00. Needless to say, webmasters need to seriously consider if they are even willing to be involved in email campaigns since the practice can be quite costly if performed contrary
to the law.