Everything You Need To Know About Anti-Spam Laws
Email Marketing Guidelines To Help You Stay Outta Trouble!
As many of you in the email marketing world know, there are a plethora of rules, regulations, and laws that are meant to prevent people and companies from spamming you with loads of unwarrented emails. In fact, you can even be fined up to 16,000 dollars for taking part in various unlawful spamming practices.
The problem: Not many people know or are aware of the CAN-SPAM Act Compliance Guide that the FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection released to the public. But, don’t worry? We’ve got you covered, and we’ll make sure that you know all the rules you need to know. First, we’ll go over some CAN-SPAM key points, then, we’ll continue by examining the FTC’s compliance guide for businesses.
CAN-SPAM Need-to-knows! 🙂
The Compliance guide is quite a read, so we’re going to water it down a bit, and share the 7 essential need-to-knows!
1. You must be clear about who you are when sending a message: Your name or business must be indicated in the “From” section, and you must be clear about who you’re sending it “To” as well. There can’t be any false or misleading information when sending out these emails, folks!
2.The subject line must sync up with the content in your message. Otherwise you’re misleading potential recipients!
3. Identify the purpose of your email, for example, if it’s an ad, make sure to say so! Furthermore, letting your audience know it’s an ad actually builds credibility through honesty. And, honest email marketers are the best email marketers.
4. Identify your address, (this is easy enough and can be added to your email signature). Also, a P.O. Box is fine too!
5. Make sure that your email gives the recipient the option to cancel their subscription. The perfect example of this is the “unsubscribe” button at the bottom of almost all adsy emails.
6. If a recipient decides to unsubscribe from your newsletter, you must fully honor their decision to do so within a period of ten business days. Furthermore, you can’t hassle them for any more personal information after they decide to do so.
7. You’re still legally responsible for spamming even if the company that you contract to handle your email marketing is the one doing it! So, you should always monitor the company that’s working for you, and make sure that all parties are compliant with CAN-SPAM guidelines.
It’s Your Business To Stay In Business! 🙂
Now that you have a little overview of the CAN-SPAM key points/guidelines. We’ll summarize and highlight the most important notes from the FTC’s compliance guide for businesses.
Businesses need to know if the emails they send are covered by the CAN-SPAM act. To find out, you must analyze the central purpose of your emails: Are they commercial, Transactional or relationship based… or neither? If you’re answer is commercial, then it must comply with CAN-SPAM regulations. If your emails are mainly transactional (e.g. like an email from Amazon that an order has shipped), then it may be exempt from CAN-SPAM regulations? Unless, of course, it contains false information!
For more knowledge, and for your knowledge, this is what it means to be a transactional, or relationship based email:
1. to facilitate a previously agreed upon actions.
2. to give security information; recall, safety, warranty.
3. to give account information; membership, subscription, account.
4. Employee relationship/benefits information.
5. Transactional information; services or goods delivery.
Sometimes, though, messages can contain commercial and transactional/relationship based content – if that’s the case, is it subject to CAN-SPAM regulations?
According to the FTC’s compliance guide for businesses, here’s how you make that determination: “If a recipient interpreting the subject line would likely conclude that the message contains an advertisement, or a promotion for a commercial product or service, or, if the message’s transactional or relationship content does not appear at the beginning of the message, the primary purpose of the message is commercial. So, when a message contains both kinds of content ? commercial and transactional, or relationship based and it can lead the recipient to think it’s a commercial message, it’s a commercial message according to CAN-SPAM. Similarly, if the bulk of the transactional or relationship part of an email message doesn’t appear at the beginning, it’s a commercial message under the CAN-SPAM Act.”
You are hereby punished! (Punishments that are dealt out if you don’t follow the rules)
CAN-SPAM violators can expect heavy blows. First let’s talk about the worst penalties.
1. Sending out Spam with another person’s computer or email without their permission.
2. Registering for email accounts with false information.
3. Misleading people through relaying and transmitting many spam messages.
4. Obtaining emails, or generating them through the use of dictionary attack – which according to the FTC, is “the practice of sending email to addresses made up of random letters and number in the hope of reaching valid ones.” And last but not least…
5. using open relays or open proxies without permission, and to your advantage. Imprisonment can be imposed upon violators of these rules and regulations. Furthermore, according to the FTC, “Both the company whose product is promoted in the message and the company that originated the message may be legally responsible.
The CAN-SPAM regulations don’t stop there though? Sexually explicit messages have their own rules: Sexually oriented messages must include the words “Sexually-Explicit:” Also, the usage of graphics is strictly forbidden unless previously given consent by the recipient. In other words, sexually oriented emails must explain how to access the explicit material, rather than just displaying it.
O Canada, Our home and native land! True patriot love, free of all your spam!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee… with Canadian Anti-Spam Regulations…
Now that we’ve discussed America, let’s move on and assess Canada’s anti-spam regulations! Very recently (July 1at, 2014), Canada put into effect laws against spamming. If you watch their youtube video (see video here), they highlight 3 words, “consent,” “identification,” and “unsubscribe.”
In other words, you must have consent from all of the recipients you’re emailing, you must identify yourself using your name and address info, and you must give your recipients the option to unsubscribe. This all sounds pretty familiar, right? 🙂 Well, here’s a more detailed scoop!
According to CASL (Canada’s Anti Spam Law) here are the rules surrounding sending CEMs (Commercial Electronic Messages?
1. Spam is not just limited to emails – text messages and social media messages sent through the likes of facebook and twitter also qualify.
2. Commercial Electronic messages (CEM) are defined as messages that encourage one to take part in clicking on various ads and promotions, offers etc.
3. As you know, you require consent to send someone a CEM, but, you should also know that you’re not allowed to send someone an email asking for consent, because that is also considered against CASL guidelines.
4. To get consent, you must clearly state the purpose of your email and why you are making the request for consent in the first place. You must also identify yourself when asking for consent, as well as give that person your contact information, and allow them the opportunity to unsubscribe from similar messages in the future. Furthermore, you must also prove that you have your recipients’ consent.
I hope we’ve answered any and all questions that you could have asked regarding Spam regulations At DirectIQ we want to make sure that you’re as well informed as possible! 🙂
You can check out the CAN-SPAM Act Compliance Guide by clicking here, and you can learn more about CASL by clicking here. 🙂
If you would like to find specific spam laws about your country take a look at The Ultimate Legal Guide to Email Outreach by the folks at Etools
Baris is the founder of DirectIQ with over 20 years of experience in email marketing campaigns. Baris is an expert in all aspects of email marketing, and he created DirectIQ as an alternative to mass marketing tools like Mailchimp because he knows how to deliver individualized experience en masse to niches like hotel and real estate marketing, where a personal touch means everything.