In 2003, President George Bush signed the CAN-SPAM Act to create a set of federal regulations regarding email marketing and what companies can and cannot do with an email campaign. The act also sets penalties for non-compliance – up to $16,000 for each separate email in violation of the act. Do the math. If you don’t play by CAN-SPAM rules when sending out thousands of emails, you may soon be out of business.

Before you design your next email campaign, know what the rules are and protect yourself from business-busting penalties.

Here are the key points you should know when monitoring the design and implementation of an email marketing campaign.

Emails must be truthful.

The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 sets down easily understandable regulations that all businesses that conduct email marketing must follow to stay in compliance with federal regulations. Truthfulness – not misleading the recipient – is a key aspect.

Emails must be clearly labeled

  • The subject lines of your email messages must accurately reflect the content of the message and not be misleading.
  • “From” and “Reply To” must be complete, working email addresses.
  •  Routing information must be evident, including the source domain name and email address.
  • People should know where an email came from. Emails should move in a straight line from sender to recipient without sneaking in proxy servers to hide the real sender of the email.

Your email must indicate that it is an advertisement.

It must be clear and conspicuous that the reader is viewing an advertisement.

An email advertisement must include a physical location.

It can be your business address, a U.S Post Office box, or a mail box at the local UPS Store or another business mailbox location. However, the address must appear somewhere in the ad, and of course, legitimate businesses want prospects to know where their physical location.

Recipients must be able to opt out.

If recipients don’t want more emails from you, they should be able to request that you stop marketing to them. The opt-out process should be simple – a single “Thanks, but no thanks” button.

Process opt-outs quickly.

Federal regulation states that you must honor a recipient’s opt-out request within 10 business days. Managing opt-outs can be automated to keep your company in compliance with federal regulations.

Hire reputable email marketing providers.

Work with a company that can answer your questions about the do’s and don’ts of email marketing according to the CAN-SPAM Act.

When you outsource email marketing to another company, your company is still responsible according to federal regulation, so stay on top of what your email marketer does, emphasize that all emails must be compliant, and that every aspect of an email blast should be in agreement with CAN-SPAM regulations.

It only takes a few complaints to get noticed, which could get costly for you.

You get less spam today than in the old days when anyone could send you anything, but to successfully utilize emails to market your company’s products or services, make sure you read up on the CAN-SPAM Act, and play by the rules.

For more information, consult the FTC’s compliance guide: