The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003
- The CAN-SPAM Act was signed into legislation by George W. Bush in 2003 and is enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). An acronym for Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing, The CAN-SPAM Act requires commercial email senders to follow certain regulations in order to be considered legitimate senders, and not spammers.
The most notable regulation is that a sender must send only to those who have opted-in to receive emails or to those who have an existing relationship with the sender. Other regulations require the sender to include a physical mailing address and a working opt-out mechanism such as an unsubscribe link.
The CAN-SPAM Update of 2008
- According to the Federal Trade Commission's government website, in May 2008, four new provisions under the CAN-SPAM Act were approved. These provisions clarified the terms "sender" and "person," simplified the opt-out procedure, and allowed senders to use a post office box as the required mailing address.
Canada's ECPA Bill
- In a similar vein to the United States' CAN-SPAM Act, Canada introduced the Electronic Commerce Protection Act (ECPA) in May 2009. Should this bill be passed, Canadian senders will be under more strict guidelines than senders in the United States. Focused on consumer consent, email marketers will be allowed to send only to those who have opted-in to receive their emails, whether they are existing customers or not.
- Transactional or relationship messages are excluded from email marketing laws intended to prevent spam. These messages are those that contain client account information such as a receipt, invoice or password. While advertisements can be included in these messages, they are limited to a nonprominent portion of the email--usually at the bottom of the email.
- The email marketer's approach toward email marketing laws should always be viewed with an eye toward the consumer. It is possible for a marketer to comply with email marketing laws technically and still be reported as a spammer.
A subscriber who doesn't remember subscribing, thinks a sender sends too often, or can't find the unsubscribe link, can easily report someone as spam. If that happens as little as three times, an email client such as Yahoo! or Gmail can block a sender's emails from all addresses belonging to its domain.
To build sender reputation, email marketers should consider using a reputable email provider (for example, ExactTarget, Emma or Mail Chimp). A provider will take care of the legal details and ensure that its clients follow email marketing best practices.