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Do You Know Your CAN-SPAM Rules?

Posted on | February 22, 2010 | No Comments

Not long ago, some students in an email class I was presenting at, got into a discussion on CAN-SPAM (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003).  New users are often surprised at the extent of the penalties associated with sending SPAM or, while they’re aware of the Act itself, they’re fuzzy on the details. Some think that CAN-SPAM doesn’t apply to them. 

So, I thought I’d write a short post with some answers to commonly-asked questions and provide pointers to CAN-SPAM resources that provide more detailed help.

First, I’d advise anyone doing opt-in email marketing to read about CAN-SPAM before starting their campaigns.  Ennect posts a link to CAN-SPAM info right in our application, so users can review it before sending.  Since we’re outside the application, here’s a link to the Act itself:

 It’s not the most scintillating reading or the easiest to understand, especially if you’re new to email marketing. The FTC provides an easier way to digest the main points outlined in the Act here:

One question I get a lot is: how long does a sender have to remove a name if someone opts-out?  The law clearly states that it’s illegal for a sender to email someone 10 business days after they’ve opted out.  It also says that is unlawful for someone else to email to an opted out address on the sender’s behalf or for that address to be sold or otherwise transferred to someone else for any purpose other than to comply with the opt-out request.   

Another question that comes up is: does the email have to provide the sender’s business address as well as email?  The answer is: yes!  The Act clearly states that “a valid physical postal address of the sender” must be included in the email.

Sourcing email addresses seems to be a murky area as well.  Some new users seem to think it’s ok to pull email addresses off of websites in order to build their lists.  Well, it’s not!  That’s called ‘harvesting’ and it’s also outlawed by the CAN-SPAM Act.

What’s the cost of violation?  It depends on the specific infraction, but if convicted, a single incident can cost $250 per email sent up to $2,000,000. But the court can increase that by three times and add attorney fees.  So, unless you have some serious spare change in your pocket, you should learn the rules and follow them.

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