Though the CAN-SPAM Act has been in effect since 2003, I have had several different firms in the last 6 months want to use purchased email lists—some of them compiled–with no knowledge of CAN-SPAM laws. It’s time for a quick refresher.

Each violation of the CAN-SPAM Act can result in up to a $16,000 fine, so a basic knowledge of this Act is imperative if you are an email marketer. The CAN-SPAM Act impacts commercial emails that are sent to email addresses in the USA. Other countries have specific email marketing laws, including the super-restrictive Canadian CASL laws.

The CAN-SPAM Act identifies two types of commercial email content that it covers:

  1. Transactional content –an email about a current or already agreed-upon transaction.
  2. Commercial content- which advertises or promotes a commercial product, service or website.

Some of the basics of the CAN-SPAM Act, which established requirements so email recipients can opt out of commercial emails, include that marketing emails must:

  1. Not include false or misleading header information.
  2. Have non-deceptive subject lines.
  3. Identify the message as an ad.
  4. Tell the recipients where you are located.
  5. Tell recipients how to opt out of future emails.
  6. Promptly remove people who opt out.

As email response rates on our internal databases are dropping, it is tempting to purchase the many compiled email lists are available today. Be careful! Using many of these lists will put you in violation of the CAN-SPAM laws, get extremely low response rates, and can get your IP address blacklisted. An upcoming blog post will give some suggestions about how you can legally use and improve response rates on purchased lists.

The journey continues.


Disclaimer: I am a marketer, not an attorney. The information in this post should not be construed as legal advice. This is my interpretation of the CAN-SPAM Act.

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