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Walk the Line: Staying in Compliance with the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003

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Submitted by Tim Roper on Thursday, March 24, 2011

Small businesses use email marketing as a cost-effective tool for communicating with both current and future customers. However, if you’re conducting email marketing campaigns (including e-newsletters), you need to comply with the following rules or risk running afoul of Federal Trade Commission laws (disclaimer: We’re not lawyers. Consult with legal counsel to verify any commercial emails you send are in compliance with the law).

  • Do not use false, misleading, or even vague subject lines. Subject lines must accurately reflect the content of the message and must clearly indicate that the message is an advertisement.
  • Similarly, don’t use false or misleading header information. “From,” “To,” and “Reply-To” fields must accurately identify the individual or business from which the email originates.
  • Every message must include an opt-out link, which must be valid for 30 days. Users that request to unsubscribe from your mailing list must be removed within 10 business days.
  • You must include your postal mailing address. This can be a PO Box or commercial receiving agency (e.g., Mailboxes, Etc.) as long as it’s established under US Postal Service guidelines.
  • If you’re using a third-party mass mailing service, make sure they’re in compliance as well. Just because you’ve outsourced this function doesn’t absolve you from potential liability.
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