Best Practices for Keeping Your Emails CAN-SPAM Compliant 

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July 5, 2023

Email marketing is an excellent tool for businesses because it provides a direct route into your target audience's inbox and drives traffic directly to your company's website. However, email marketing in the United States requires that you maintain CAN-SPAM compliance, or your business could be subject to hefty fines and reputational damage. Learn how CAN-SPAM compliance helps your business maintain a positive reputation while protecting consumers from potentially harmful email marketing messages.  

What is the CAN-SPAM Act? 

The CAN-SPAM Act was signed into law in 2003 and took effect the following year. This legislation aims to protect consumers by ensuring all emails sent for advertising purposes are clearly labeled, honest about who they're from, and provide an easily accessible opt-out option. Before CAN-SPAM laws were enacted, consumers' inboxes were littered with unsolicited, unregulated emails that potentially contained harmful content.  

Considering email is the preferred method of communication amongst businesses, email marketing is a seriously powerful tool when used correctly. But all emails sent with the primary purpose of advertising are beholden to CAN-SPAM compliance laws. Compliance with these laws helps your business maintain an honest reputation and avoid fines while reassuring your customers they’re protected from unwanted or dangerous content.  

CAN-SPAM Act requirements  

1. Be honest about who the email is from 

Ensure all routing information, including the originating email address and domain name, accurately identify your business, as well as the individual who sent the message if applicable.  

2. Use accurate subject lines 

Your subject lines should accurately convey what's inside the message to avoid misleading consumers. For instance, you can't tell people they could win a huge prize as the subject title, then not mention it in the email body.  In addition, if the subject line appears spam-like, it may not be in violation of CAN-SPAM, but it could land you in individual users’ spam folders. 

3. Tell recipients that your email is an ad

It's important that companies advertise in a manner that's honest and upfront. Using intimidation or scare tactics to manipulate readers into making direct purchases violates the CAN-SPAM Act. By avoiding this practice, you're also more likely to build long-term relationships with loyal, happy customers. 

4. Include your company's address in every email  

One of the most overlooked standards is including your company's physical postal address in every email. This is a great way to communicate your brand's trustworthiness to both returning and prospective customers while maintaining CAN-SPAM compliance.   

5. Make it easy to unsubscribe 

If a customer doesn't want to receive emails from your company, not being able to opt-out could lead to frustration. There's no long-term benefit to sending unwanted emails, so this requirement can only benefit your brand's reputation, attributing to your customer service and ease of use. 

Opt-out messaging should be clear, concise, and easy for the reader to understand that they can unsubscribe any time they choose. The FTC recommends using creative colors, a prominent location, and larger font sizes to maximize visibility.    

6. Process opt-out requests promptly 

Once someone requests to unsubscribe, you legally have 10 days to honor their request. You can't charge them a fee or require them to provide additional information, and you can't transfer or sell their email address — even as part of a mailing list. However, you can transfer the email address to a third party you've hired to assist with CAN-SPAM compliance. 

7. Outsourced emails are still your responsibility  

Even if a third-party company handles email marketing on your behalf, you're legally responsible for complying with CAN-SPAM laws. In these cases, both companies could be held accountable for any violations.  

Consequences of CAN-SPAM noncompliance 

Each individual email that doesn't comply with CAN-SPAM Act requirements can be subject to a penalty fine of up to $50,120. That means a full-scale email campaign that isn't compliant could cost your business millions of dollars. There are certain violations that can incur additional fines and even criminal penalties — including imprisonment.  

In 2018, three employees pleaded guilty to violating aCAN-SPAM regulation, requiring the company to forfeit $4,939,526. The defendants were sentenced to 100 hours of community service, plus had to pay individual fines of $100,000 each.  

Knowing these laws and regulations can save your company a lot of time and money, so it’s crucial to instill business practices that protect both your clients and employees. Practices to avoid include: 

  • Relying on false information to register for multiple domain names or email accounts 
  • Relaying numerous spam messages through a computer to mislead others about where the message came from 
  • Harvesting email addresses or sending out emails to random email addresses in the hope of reaching real ones 
  • Taking advantage of open proxies or open relays without permission  

 

Conclusion  

CAN-SPAM compliance protects consumers from being exploited or harmed. Maintaining these regulations shows clients that you care about your integrity and the effects of your actions as a company, building strong relationships based on trust and improving your brand’s overall reputation. However, legal compliance is just the beginning. Discover more ways to build a strong, positive brand reputation.  

 

 

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