New Rule Provision Under the CAN-SPAM Act

The Enactment of the CAN-SPAM Act

Just when it looked like the spammers had managed to destroy email marketing, things began to take a turn for the better. Technology was developed to nail spam as software designers figured out ways to filter and block spam. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) blocked domains that had a lot of spam on them and then, in 2003, the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act (CAN-SPAM Act) was signed into law by then-President George Bush. It became effective in January 2004.

More than a Slap on the Hand

This first step in dealing with email spam targeted American businesses that use email for commercial purposes, spammers and those who hire spammers. It prohibits them from sending emails to people who don't want to receive them and provided guidelines for marketers to adhere to - along with penalties for those who stray from the rules. Violating the CAN-SPAM Act can lead to some pretty serious fines and even jail time and spammers are also made liable for civil damages. It stopped being a laughing matter when this law came into effect. As with all things within laws that are promulgated, they are subject to change or revision so, if you are a business owner it is a good idea to have your legal counsel check out your practices to ensure you are abiding by the rules correctly.

The Main Thrust of CAN-SPAM Act

The main thrust of the CAN-SPAM Act broke email down into three kinds of messages: transactional or relationship messages, messages to an opt-in list, and other types of commercial emails. In order to comply with the Act, commercial messages have to state that that is what they are and the information has to be within the email. Clear removal or unsubscribe options must be in every email and if a request to be removed from a list arrives, it should be processed within ten days. The privacy policy is not to be empty words - if people are told their names will not be sold to another company, than they are not to be sold. Misleading addresses or subject lines are not to be used. Additionally, it is necessary to not be abusive by sending information out too often - once a week is usually enough. Depending upon the website server, the presentation of the rules within the act may be more stringent. If you are being spammed, report it.

New Rule Provisions by FTC - 2008

Three years after the CAN-SPAM Act came into effect the Federal Trade Commission approved four new rule provisions that were intended to aid in clarifying the requirements of the Act. There were four topics addressed in the new ruling that were summarized in the FTC News release from May 12, 2008, as follows:

1. an e-mail recipient cannot be required to pay a fee, provide information other than his or her e-mail address and opt-out preferences, or take any steps other than sending a reply e-mail message or visiting a single Internet Web page to opt out of receiving future e-mail from a sender;

2. The definition of "sender" was modified to make it easier to determine which of multiple parties advertising in a single e-mail message is responsible for complying with the Act's opt-out requirements;

3. A "sender" of commercial e-mail can include an accurately-registered post office box or private mailbox established under United States Postal Service regulations to satisfy the Act's requirement that a commercial e-mail display a "valid physical postal address"; and

4. A definition of the term "person" was added to clarify that CAN-SPAM's obligations are not limited to natural persons

The New Rule Provisions came as a result of comments and suggestions garnered by the FTC from representatives of a large spectrum of online commerce industry, trade associations, individual consumers, and consumer and privacy advocates.

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86% of email addresses posted on websites are used by spammers to send unsolicited emails?

63% of all "Remove me from your list" requests are not honored.

Spam accounted for 80% of all e-mail received in 2004, up from 62% in 2003