Given rising concerns about electronic privacy, it was only a matter of time before Congress stepped in to regulate the email marketing industry. The result? The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, effective January 1, 2004.

Want to use email in your marketing mix? Then be sure that your messages meet these four basic CAN-SPAM guidelines:

1) The header must be accurate. This includes the “To,” “From,” and all header information — in short, anything which identifies the sender and the originating domain and email address.

2) Subject lines must not be deceptive or misleading. The information in the “Subject” or “Re:” lines must accurately reflect the content of the email.

3) Emails must provide an “opt-out” mechanism. The message must include either a return email address or another electronic mechanism that allows recipients to request removal from your mailing list. You can allow recipients to opt-out of certain types of communications (if you have multiple ezines, for example), but they must also include the option to stop all commercial messages from you.

4) Commercial messages must be identified as such and include the sender’s valid postal address.

Most commercial e-marketing services have features that help their customers meet CAN-SPAM requirements. But no matter which service you use, complying with CAN-SPAM will not only keep you out of trouble, it’ll boost your credibility with your recipients.

As with any legal issue, the above guidelines are a general overview and not a substitute for qualified legal advice. For more information on CAN-SPAM, visit the FTC’s website at hhttp://business.ftc.gov/documents/bus61-can-spam-act-Compliance-Guide-for-Business.

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