CAN-SPAM Act Compliance for Email Marketers

CAN-SPAM Act Compliance for Email Marketers

Responsible marketers often worry about CAN-SPAM Act compliance, and perhaps rightfully so. But honestly there is little to fear here. The act merely sets rules for commercial email marketing, including the right of consumers to stop receiving emails they didn’t request.  That’s not such a bad thing.


Although it sounds like the CAN-SPAM Act covers only bulk email, it really covers much more. The rules apply to all commercial messages, which the act defines as “any electronic mail message the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service.” This includes all business-to-business email. All commercial email — including messages sent to former customers — must incorporate Can-Spam Act compliance.


Penalties for violating the CAN-SPAM Act include fines that can range up to tens of thousands of dollars, so it is best that bulk emailers pay attention to the law. But following the rules isn’t overly complicated. Here are some things to keep in mind so you don’t run afoul of the law.


Avoid false or misleading headers: Your “from” and “reply to” information must be correct and valid. Recipients must be able to identify who you are and how to reach you.  And remember, your email open rates will improve when your subscribers know who is sending the message in the first place.


Deceptive subject lines: It’s one thing to create exciting and inviting subject lines that will increase open rates, but you cannot lie. Your subject line should be relevant to the email itself. Don’t use a subject line like “your package has arrived” when you are emailing a sales pitch.  This is common sense stuff, really.


Location: Tell recipients where you are located by including a physical mailing address. The good news here is that this can be a street address or a post office box, so if you’re operating from a home office you have options.  Try signing up for a mailbox service if you don’t have a commercial office location.  The UPS store is one great option.


Unsubscribing: When consumers can’t easily unsubscribe from an email list, they tend to get cranky. Can you blame them?  If someone does not want your email, there is no sense in continuing to badger them. Doing so will lower your email open rates and decrease your ability to get future emails into the inbox of the people who actually want them.  Include an unsubscribe link. Not only is this mandated for CAN-SPAM Act compliance, but it’s also something ISPs look for when deciding whether your email is legitimate or spam.


Opt-out requests: When someone unsubscribes from your email list, you need to honor their wish. Failure to honor an opt-out request could result in fines. It’s simply a good business practice to purge your email list of people who don’t wish to be contacted. Doing so also will help lower your complaints and increase both open rates and subscriber engagement.


The CAN-SPAM Act isn’t anything you should fear. Instead, use it as a guide to basic best practices that can actually boost your campaign results. In other words, the CAN-SPAM Act has done more good than harm for legitimate bulk emailers.  Remember, the less that spammers actually reach consumers the more inbox real estate and attention bandwidth is available for the good guys.

About the Author