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CAN-SPAM Act: what is it, when does it apply and what’s not prohibited

If your business uses some form of email marketing, you should be familiar with the US compliance guidelines that are in place to protect the consumer.

What is the CAN-SPAM Act?

Set as a US standard for the regulation of spam email, Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing (CAN-SPAM) is an act that establishes the rules for commercial email and commercial messages.

When does the CAN-SPAM apply?

All US businesses that send commercial emails (or employ third-party services to send emails on their behalf) are subject to comply.

The CAN-SPAM Act doesn’t apply just to bulk email. It covers all commercial messages, which the law defines as “any electronic mail message the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service”, including email that promotes content on commercial websites.

Does it apply to all types of email?

The law makes no exception for business-to-business email. It does, however, exempt transactional and relationship messages.

Which activities are not prohibited by the CAN-SPAM Act?

The CAN-SPAM Act doesn’t prohibit email advertising, but it prohibits certain fraudulent practices related to email advertising, such as using false or misleading identity information (“From,” “To,” and “Reply to”) or deceptive subject lines.

Under the FTC’s CAN-SPAM Act, you do not need consent prior to adding users located in the US to your mailing list or sending them commercial messages. However, it is mandatory that you provide users with a clear means of opting out of further contact.

What are the main requirements of CAN-SPAM?

The Act requires email advertisers to:

  • clearly label those messages as an ad,
  • give recipients a means to opt-out of receiving future messages (and honor opt-out requests promptly), and
  • provide a valid physical postal address.

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