Email Marketing and the Rules of CAN-SPAM: What you need to know for your business

Today, 95% of all email  is considered spam. If you use email for your business, you must know the rules of the CAN-SPAM Act and how to protect your company from a violation. This act sets rules for how you can contact your current and potential customers by email and gives them rights for opting-out of future emails. If you don’t follow the guidelines, you could face hefty fines for non-compliance – up to $16,000 per email.

The CAN-SPAM Act covers business email which the law defines as: “any electronic mail message the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service.” This covers most, if not all, of the bulk email a company or organization would send to its customers and potential customers. It doesn’t cover relationship or transactional email sent to a customer with which you are doing business.

Here are the highlights of the Act:
1. You must identify your company as the sender of the email.
2. Subject lines must reflect the content of the email and not be misleading.
3. Your message must be identified as an advertisement.
4. You must reveal where you are located by including a physical address.
5. You must include a description of how recipients can opt-out of your mailings.
6. You must honor opt-out requests within 10 days of the request and you cannot sell or transfer an email address once they have opted-out.
7. You are responsible for adhering to the law, even if you contract with someone to coordinate your emails and or list on your behalf.

There are also best practices regarding opt-in, which is when someone is given an opportunity to join a list and receive “bulk” email. Permission-based opt-in requires a single (subscriber is immediately added to the database upon sign-up) or a double opt-in (subscriber is sent an email or some other confirmation procedure after sign-up) by the recipient.

A little known recent addition in terms of compliance is the court decision deeming Facebook posts as falling within the definition of “commercial email messages.” This means that ads on Facebook must adhere to the same guidelines listed above.  It is unclear whether this ruling will extend to other social media advertising on sites such as Twitter. Similar rules also apply to messages sent to mobile phones through the internet.

Educate yourself on the CAN-SPAM Act and rules of permission-based marketing to ensure you are in compliance. Failure to comply can affect your brand as well as your pocketbook.

Read more details about the laws governing email and mobile messages at the following links:
http://business.ftc.gov/documents/bus61-can-spam-act-compliance-guide-business
http://www.fcc.gov/guides/spam-unwanted-text-messages-and-email



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