The CAN-SPAM Act, Requirements for Email Content

The CAN-SPAM Act, Requirements for Email Content

The Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing or CAN-SPAM Act for short is a federal law that sets forth various rules and regulations for the use of commercial email to U.S.-based recipients, including digital promotion and email marketing. The CAN-SPAM Act was passed in 2003 to help protect American consumers from malicious and unsolicited email messages. The CAN-SPAM Act applies to any commercial electronic message that is sent to U.S. consumers, including business-to-consumer communications as well as business-to-business communications.

Both transactional messages and marketing messages fall under the jurisdiction of the CAN-SPAM Act. While transactional email messages are only required to convey truthful information, commercial email messages are subject to the following requirements:

What if an email message or campaign combines both commercial and transactional content?

It’s extremely common for emails sent by companies or businesses to contain a mix of both commercial and transactional content. In such cases where an email message contains both forms of content, the primary purpose of the message is the determining factor in relation to the CAN-SPAM Act. For example, if an email recipient who reasonably interpreted the subject line of a given email message would likely conclude that said message contained an advertisement or promotion for a commercial product or service, or said message’s transactional content does not plainly appear at the beginning of the message, the primary purpose of the said email message is considered to be commercial. To this point, when an email message contains a mixture of commercial and transactional content, the subject line is the determining factor.

What if an email message includes content from more than one business or company?

If an email message promotes or advertises the websites, goods, or services of more than one marketer, the CAN-SPAM Act outlines a clear method for determining who should be held responsible in terms of compliance. Marketers whose websites, goods, or services are promoted or advertised within an email message can designate a single marketer as the sender for CAN-SPAM Act purposes, as long as the designated sender meets the following criteria:

What are the penalties for violating the CAN-SPAM Act?

Individual email violations of the CAN-SPAM Act can result in fines and penalties up to $43,792 per violation. What’s more, more than one person or entity can be held liable for these violations. For example, both the company whose product has been promoted in a commercial email message, as well as the company that originated said messages can be held liable for CAN-SPAM violations. Conversely, emails that are proven to contain misleading or deceptive claims about products or services are also subject to CAN-SPAM violations. The CAN-SPAM Act is enforced by the Federal Trade Commission and permits criminal penalties, including imprisonment, to be levied against businesses and individuals who engage in the following actions:

As email messaging has come to represent some of the most common forms of communication around the world, it is only fitting that the U.S. government maintains federal legislation in regards to what can and cannot be contained in the contents of an email message. With laws such as the CAN-SPAM Act, American consumers can rest assured that email senders cannot make false or misleading claims in relation to their products or services. Furthermore, the CAN-SPAM Act also protects the privacy of American consumers by ensuring that senders of email messages identify themselves, provide opt-out or unsubscribe links, and give consumers a physical mailing address where they can also choose to opt-out or unsubscribe from future messages.

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