Many businesses online now engage in email marketing of some sort. Whether it be sending a press release/company news, new product notice, sale notice, web site update, or surveys. However, since January 1, 2004, the CAN-SPAM act has set some very specific requirements in order for an email to be legal to send.
I personally find that not many small business owners are aware or understand the rules. Blue Sky Factory reports that 50% of email marketers in the US do not understand the CAN-SPAM laws.
What the Law Requires:
- It bans false or misleading header information. Your email’s “From,” “To,” and routing information (including the originating domain name and email address) must be accurate and identify the person who initiated the email.
- It prohibits deceptive subject lines. The subject line cannot mislead the recipient about the contents or subject matter of the message.
- It requires that your email give recipients an opt-out method. You must provide a return email address or another Internet-based response mechanism that allows a recipient to ask you not to send future email messages to that email address, and you must honor the requests.
- It requires that commercial email be identified as an advertisement and include the sender’s valid physical postal address. Your message must contain clear and conspicuous notice that the message is an advertisement or solicitation and that the recipient can opt out of receiving more commercial email from you. It also must include your valid physical postal address.
- “harvest” email addresses from Web sites or Web services that have published a notice prohibiting the transfer of email addresses for the purpose of sending email.
Each violation of the above provisions is subject to fines of up to $11,000. Deceptive commercial email also is subject to laws banning false or misleading advertising.
Another good reason to comply is you can avoid the aggressive spam filters. Many ISPs and personal computers now have Spam Blocking Filters, which often filter legitimate email along with real spam. So, by following the rules, you not only avoid fines and prison, but you ensure that your customers are actually getting your email.