By JAMES DANIELS Jr.
Could you be a spammer? Does your company use email as a marketing tool? If so, you could be considered a spammer as defined by the U.S. CAN-SPAM Act (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing).
The CAN-SPAM act has five main components and applies to all commercial electronic mail messages. The government defines commercial electronic mail messages as any electronic mail message intended for commercial advertisement or promotion of a product or services. Perhaps you send out non-marketing material as well, such as newsletters and other information, in an effort to build and keep ongoing relationships with your clients.
CAN-SPAM considers any commercial emails, not just unsolicited emails, when identifying a spammer. Therefore, it is critical to ensure that your business complies with CAN-SPAM. If not, your business could be subject to fines and penalties of $25 per email sent.
Most businesses do not feel they are spammers, so they fail to review the CAN-SPAM regulations; however, something as simple as not having a postal address included with your commercial email will result in your business being out of compliance with CAN-SPAM requirements.
Most CAN-SPAM rules are straightforward, and there are five identifiable components:
- Opt-in requirements
- Opt-out requirements
- Sender identification
- Non-deceptive subject line
- Contact information
Opt-in requirements – It is a violation of CAN-SPAM to send marketing emails to anyone without their permission. The person must provide an explicit request to opt-in to receive the marketing emailers. If you send unsolicited emails to individuals and the individuals then mark you as spam within their email client (Gmail, Outlook mail, and Yahoo Mail), this will create a bad senders’ score leading to blocked emails or email blacklisting.
Opt-out requirements – Each email must have an option to unsubscribe, this option must be included in every marketing email that is sent out. Also, the request must be completed within 10 days.
Sender identification – CAN-SPAM does not allow misleading sender information. The “From” email address must be accurate and should indicate the actual sender of the email.
Non-deceptive subject line – As with sender identification, misleading subject lines are illegal as well. The information in the subject line must be accurate, and word choice is essential when describing special offers.
Contact information – Every marketing email that is sent must have a valid physical postal address within the email
If you do not comply with the above components not only could you be subject to fines but, your email address domain could be blacklisted. You typically would not know your email address domain has been blacklisted until clients stop replying to your email due to the fact they are not receiving them. This is the primary reason email blacklisting was created and implemented providing an avenue for CAN-SPAM to reduce the spread of spam. Routinely, a list of known spammers is compiled and posted on industry sites such as Mxtoolbox.com and Spamhaus.org. If you are identified as a spammer, you will to go to the listing agent that is blocking your email domain and follow the instructions on how to be removed from the list.
If your business is unsure if they are meeting all the requirement of the CAN-SPAM Act, there are several email marketing companies that can assist. These companies can ensure that you do not violate any of the regulations related to the CAN-SPAM Act. Two such companies are Constant Contact and Mail Chimp. Both of these companies manage compliance of CAN-SPAM laws for businesses while providing information and tools to business preventing the likelihood of sending emails, marketing materials, newsletters, and all mass communications that are in violation of any of the regulations.
James Daniels Jr. is faculty advisor and IT instructor at Lindenwood University-Belleville