CAN-SPAM: Quick Refresher

The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing) establishes requirements for those who send commercial email. It spells out penalties for spammers and companies who violate the Act while advertising products in spam, and gives consumers the right to ask emailers to stop spamming them. The Federal Trade Commission is authorized to enforce the CAN-SPAM Act, which also gives the Department of Justice the authority to enforce criminal sanctions.

There are four main points to the law.

  1. Ban on false or misleading header information. Header information is the e-mail’s “From,” “To,” and routing information. Also included is the originating domain name and e-mail address, which must be accurate and identify the person who initiated the e-mail. In other words, you can’t mask yourself.
  2. Commercial email must be identified as an advertisement and include the sender’s valid physical postal address. The email must contain clear and conspicuous notice that the message is an advertisement or solicitation, and that the recipient can opt out of receiving more commercial e-mail from you.
  3. The Act prohibits deceptive subject lines. The subject line cannot mislead the recipient about the contents or subject matter of the message.
  4. Requires that advertising emails give recipients an opt-out method. You must provide a return email address or another Internet-based response mechanism that allows a recipient to ask you not to send future e-mail messages to that e-mail address, and you must honor the requests.

Each violation of the above provisions is subject to fines of up to $11,000. Deceptive commercial email also is subject to laws banning false or misleading advertising. If you are a business owner and you send email to prospective clients or existing clients, follow the four main points above and you will be fine.

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Peter LaSorsa
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