A practical CAN-SPAM update for 2007

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Often thought of as a new medium, e-mail has actually been around since the Internet emerged. Today, the majority of Americans use e-mail every day and it is an extremely popular and effective marketing channel. Spam is still a challenge. Fortunately, industry self-regulation as well as anti-spam technologies, services and laws, including The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, have provided much value to the marketer and the consumer. It is now much easier for top-brand marketers to comply with best practices, earn consumer trust and maximize their e-mail marketing ROI via the e-mail media channel.

Unfortunately, four years later, many marketers still do not know how to comply with CAN-SPAM and a large percentage are self-reportedly not in compliance with the law and best practices.

The simple checklist below is a quick and easy guide that will help you and your counsel determine your compliance with CAN-SPAM.

1. Have you read the CAN-SPAM Act yet?

If not, get up to speed on the act. Here's a link.

2. Do you send commercial or transactional e-mail?

Commercial e-mail must comply with CAN-SPAM. Transactional e-mails do not share the same obligations under CAN-SPAM, but it is advisable to comply as a best practice. If you either make money directly or indirectly from e-mail you send, it is most likely commercial. Either way, you shouldn't take chances.

3. Does every e-mail you send include the CAN-SPAM mandated content below?

a) A from line that identifies any person who is involved with the sending of the e-mail. (CAN-SPAM indicates that the advertiser is the sender when the message is an offer.)

b) A non-deceptive and relevant subject line to the offer in the e-mail

c) A postal address for your company

4. Do your commercial e-mails meet the unsubscribe compliance requirements below?

a) A working unsubscribe link (that works for 30 days after you send the mail)

b) Clear and conspicuous unsubscribe instructions

You'll get bonus points if you are using the list-unsubscribe header detailed in RFC 2369.

c) Are you scrubbing every e-mail address you or your marketing partners send against your suppression list?

d) Are your marketing partners following your privacy policy when you share your suppression list with them? Are you?

e) Do people still receive e-mail from you after 10 business days from their first unsubscribe request? Bonus points if you can honor those unsubscribe requests within at least 3 business days.

5. Do you scrub all outbound e-mail against your CAN-SPAM required suppression list? Every commercial e-mail your company sends should be scrubbed including one-to-one sales messages to help ensure your company is complying with CAN-SPAM.

If you and your counsel can answer all of these questions with confidence then you may be CAN-SPAM compliant with little to worry about.

If you engage in third-party or affiliate marketing, you will also need to answer these questions for on behalf of your marketing partners e-mail programs as well. CAN-SPAM applies to all e-mail sent on your behalf. The Act places the responsibility for compliance squarely on the advertiser in the e-mail.

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