The CAN-SPAM Act: A Must for Every Business
Emails are indispensable in a business. In fact, it is one of the core requirements in jobs and professions. However, receiving a lot of emails can clutter your inbox and can even be the source of computer viruses. Spam emails, in particular, can be frustrating for recipients. Fortunately, the CAN-SPAM Act was established, implementing regulations for sending and receiving email messages. With this law, there are rules now for commercial email and receivers are allowed to prevent these annoying messages from being sent to their inbox.
However, the CAN-SPAM Act isn’t applicable to bulk emails, but does include any email message with a purpose to promote or advertise a service or a product. The act does not spare business-to-business emails and emails that promote content. All emails that promote or advertise must conform to the act. Violation of the act can result to a penalty of $16,000, and in some cases, imprisonment. Criminal charges may be carried out for:
- accessing someone else’s computer to send spam without permission,
- using false information to register for multiple email accounts or domain names,
- relaying or retransmitting multiple spam messages through a computer to mislead others about the origin of the message,
- harvesting email addresses or generating them through a dictionary attack (the practice of sending email to addresses made up of random letters and numbers in the hope of reaching valid ones), and
- taking advantage of open relays or open proxies without permission.
Requirements of the CAN-SPAM Act
To avoid paying the fee, or being charged criminally, you must comply with the following requirements:
First, do not use deceptive subject lines. These subject lines intend to send an entirely different message, and once the reader sees the subject, he or she might think that this is not a spam email. Thus, your subject line must be accurate and must reflect the real content of your email. Likewise, avoid using misleading header information. Make sure that the addresses are correct.
Since the law covers business emails, you have to identify your email as an advertisement from the get-go. This move already tells the recipient what he or she should expect. You also have to disclose to your email recipient where you are located. Hence, your valid physical postal address must be included in your email. You may also include a US-registered post office box.
It is likewise important to provide information on how recipients could opt to not receive future emails from you. Explain to your recipient how to do this in a clear and concise manner. The steps must be easy to recognize in your email. Provide a return email address or a link that the recipient could click so the emails would stop. Take advantage of the various font colors, type, and size as well so that your recipient easily sees this information.
When the recipient chooses to opt out from your email list, honor such request promptly, meaning this should be processed in a month or less. At least honor the opt-out request within 10 business days. As much as possible, do not charge the recipient anything, such as a fee or any personal information. Do not sell or transfer the recipient’s email address or pertinent information after he or she has chosen to be excluded from your list.
Lastly, you have to monitor what others are doing. This means that you have to be aware of the law. Even if you hire another company to handle your emails, they too must comply with the act. Whatever you do, you would be held legally responsible.
One concern of businesses is if the CAN-SPAM Act covers the email they’re sending. It does cover business email, and you will know that through the three different types of information your email contains. These are transactional content, commercial content, and other content that are not commercial or transactional.
What is Transactional Content?
Transactional content means there is already an ongoing transaction between you and the client, while commercial content promotes or advertises services and products. These types of information automatically determine your primary purpose for sending the email. You will also know whether your message is transactional when it: 1) gives warrant, safety, recall, or security information about a service; 2) facilitates a commercial transaction; 3) provides information about the changes in features of a membership, account, or subscription; 4) delivers services as part of the ongoing transaction; and 5) gives information regarding the employment relationship and employee benefits. In cases when the email has both transactional messages and commercial content, the deciding factor would be the primary purpose for sending the email.
On the other hand, if the email contains elements of a commercial content and that which is considered as “other” content, the CAN-SPAM will be applicable only if: 1) the recipient interprets the email as one that promotes or advertises a product; and 2) the recipient interprets the subject line as that which includes ads or promotions.
CAN-SPAM Act’s Requirements for Sexually Explicit Content
Another concern of senders and recipients are sexually explicit emails. The CAN-SPAM Act applies to sexually oriented material and must include a warning “SEXUALLY EXPLICIT” so the recipient can be readily informed.
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