People in small businesses are constantly talking about the “do not call” regulations and how they affect their business, but you don’t hear much conversation about the Can-Spam Act, the law governing what is acceptable in commercial email. Mostly that’s because people don’t understand what it applies to and how to avoid violating it.
Like most thing in life most violations of the act occur not because someone is malicious, but because they don’t understand how they are violating the law. We’re going to fix that right now by telling you the six things you need to do to be compliant!
The CAN-SPAM Act sets the rules for commercial email, establishes requirements for commercial messages, gives recipients the right to have you stop emailing them, and spells out tough penalties for violations. Despite its name, the CAN-SPAM Act doesn’t apply just to bulk email. It covers all commercial messages. That means that a one to one email from a salesperson to a potential, current, or past customer which offers anything for sale or promotes a service offered by the sender is covered under the act. And that covers business-to-business email as well. That means all email – for example, a message to former customers announcing a new product line – must comply with the law
There are however six easy steps to comply with the act, and they can be made part of your regular email routine -
- Don’t use false or misleading header information. – Don’t try to hide who you are to increase your open rate – make sure that your “From,” “To,” “Reply-To,” and the originating domain name and email address – must be accurate and identify the person or business who initiated the message.
- Don’t use deceptive subject lines. Again, we all want our email to be opened and we can get very creative here – but you need to reflect the content of the message. The law gives you a lot of leeway in how to do this, but you must disclose clearly and conspicuously that your message is an advertisement.
- Tell recipients where you’re located. Your message must include your valid physical postal address. Your street address, a post office box , or a private mailbox you’ve registered with a commercial mail receiving agency established under Postal Service regulations.
- Tell recipients how to opt out of receiving future emails. Your email must include a clear and conspicuous explanation of how people can opt out of getting email from you in the future. It should be easy for an ordinary person to recognize, read, and understand. Give a return email address or another easy Internet-based way to allow people to communicate their choice to you. You must include the option to stop all commercial messages from you.
- Honor opt-out requests promptly. You must be able to process opt-out requests for at least 30 days after you send your message. You must honor a recipient’s opt-out request within 10 business days. You can’t charge a fee, require the recipient to give you any personally identifying information beyond an email address, or make the recipient take any step other than sending a reply email or visiting a single page on an Internet website as a condition for honoring an opt-out request. And their heir email addresses are not yours to sell or transfer even in the form of a mailing list.
- Monitor what others do on your behalf. Even if you hire another company to handle your email marketing, you are responsible for what they do. While they may also bear some liability, you’re still on the hook for their actions, so monitor their actions to be sure they are compliant.