The FTC’s CAN-SPAM Act establishes requirements for commercial email messages, gives recipients the right to have emails not be sent to them, and spells out penalties for violations.

How to Comply with the FTC’s CAN-SPAM Act

Here is a rundown of CAN-SPAM’s main requirements:

     Do Not Use False or Misleading Header Information 

“From,” “To,” “Reply-To,” and routing information – including the originating domain name and email address – must be accurate and identify the person or business who initiated the message.

     Do Not Use Deceptive Subject Lines

The subject line must accurately reflect the content of the message

     Identify the Message as an Ad

The law gives you a lot of leeway in how to do this, but it is mandatory to disclose clearly and conspicuously that the message is an advertisement.

     Tell Recipients Where You are Located

The message must include a valid physical postal address.  This can be a current street address, a post office box registered with the U.S. Postal Service, or a private mailbox registered with a commercial mail receiving agency established under Postal Service regulations.

     Tell Recipients How to Opt-Out of Receiving Future Email

The message must include a clear and conspicuous explanation of how the recipient can opt out of getting email from in the future.  Craft the notice in a way that is easy for an ordinary person to recognize, read, and understand.  Creative use of type size, color, and location can improve clarity. Give a return email address or another easy Internet-based way to allow people to communicate their choice.  It is permissible to create a menu to allow a recipient to opt-out of certain types of messages, but the option to stop all commercial messages must be included.  Make sure spam filters do not block opt-out requests.

     Honor Opt-Out Requests Promptly

Any opt-out mechanism offered must be able to process opt-out requests for at least 30 days after messages are sent.  Honor a recipient’s opt-out request within 10 business days.  A fee cannot be charged, a recipient cannot be required to provide any personally identifying information beyond an email address, or to take any step other than sending a reply email or visiting a single page on an Internet website as a condition for honoring an opt-out request.  Once people have indicated that they do not want to receive more messages, their email addresses may not be sold or transferred, even in the form of a mailing list.  The only exception is that addresses may be transferred to a company hired to help you comply with the CAN-SPAM Act, so long as otherwise compliant with all applicable federal and state laws, regulations and guidelines.

     Monitor What Others are Doing on Your Behalf

The law makes clear that even if another company is hired to handle email marketing, one cannot contract away legal responsibility to comply with the law.  Both the company whose product is promoted in the message and the company that actually sends the message may be held legally responsible.