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Understanding The Laws Regarding Email Marketing

Email marketing can be an effective tool for your business, both to gain new customers and retain loyalty with existing clients. However, there are federal regulations that must be adhered to when using email for marketing purposes. The Federal Trade Commission regulates commercial email, specifically defined under the CAN-SPAM Act. It is crucial to understand the limitations under this law to avoid stiff penalties for misusing email in your marketing campaigns.

Basics Of The CAN-SPAM Act

The CAN-SPAM act is geared toward any commercial email used as a promotion tool. The law defines these emails as “any electronic mail message the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service.” This included emails to existing customers, business-to-business emails and new customers. Emails that contain only transactional, relationship or other content that is not promotional or advertorial do not need to comply with the stipulations of this law. Some of the requirements that must be met include:

  •  Headers. The originating email address should clearly identify the person or business that sent the message. Falsifying this information to mislead the recipient is in violation of the law.
  •  Subject. The subject line should not mislead the recipient of the nature or content of the email.
  •  Intent. It must be disclosed that the message is an advertisement.
  •  Physical address. The email must contain a valid physical address for the business or person. This can be a PO Box, as long as it is registered with the USPS or adheres to their guidelines.
  •  Opt-out. Recipients must be alerted on how to opt-out of any additional email marketing from your business. It must be conspicuous and easy for consumers to understand.
  • Opt-out requests. If a customer opts to not receive emails from your business, you must comply within 10 days of the request. You must also make opting out available for at least 30 days after the email is sent. You cannot sell the email address on a mailing list or any other way once they opt-out.
  • Third party. Even if you hire a third party to handle your email marketing, you still are under obligation to adhere to the law. Both your company and the company you hire could be held responsible for emails that are not in compliance.

Violations of this law can have fines of up to $16,000 per email, plus some severe violations can have criminal penalties, including imprisonment.

While there are strict rules and regulations on email marketing, when done in accordance with the law it can be a valuable marketing tool. Your Virtual Assistant can help you monitor and create email marketing campaigns that are effective and in compliance with all the regulations.

photo credit: Yogma 

Posted on August 4th, 2014 by Rachel Braam, Office Manager

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