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E-mail marketing: Know CAN-SPAM requirements

E-mail is either a blessing or a bane. It’s a blessing, if you are an online marketer and use e-mail as an inexpensive yet spameffective method of marketing your business or product. But it’s a bane, if you are an online marketer whose e-mail is considered spam.

To use e-mail appropriately and effectively—and not get blacklisted by companies—you have to obey the law—in particular, the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003. CAN-SPAM is an acronym for “Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing.” It spells out the requirements for those who send commercial e-mail and establishes penalties for spammers and companies whose products are advertised in spam if they violate the law.

If you fail to obey the law, the penalty can be significant—up to $11,000 for each violation. So, it pays to do some homework before you begin sending out e-mails to boost your business.

CAN-SPAM requirements

To stay in compliance of CAN-SPAM:

           Use accurate header information. Have you ever received an e-mail supposedly originating from someone you knew, or perhaps a celebrity, but when you opened it, you found it was from a stranger? Obviously, it was spam. CAN-SPAM prohibits false or misleading header information. The law says that an e-mail’s “from,” “to” and routing information—including the originating domain name and e-mail address—must be accurate and identify the person who initiated the e-mail.

           Don’t use deceptive subject lines. Write a subject line that is accurate. The Act bans misleading the recipient about the contents or subject matter of the message.

           Allow recipients to opt-out. Recipients of your e-mails must have a method to opt-out of receiving them. This opt-out notice must also be conspicuous in the e-mail. Provide a return e-mail address or another Internet-based response mechanism that allows recipients to take themselves off your list. And once they make such a request, honor it.

Honoring that request must also be done in a timely manner. According to the law, you have 10 business days to stop sending e-mails to the requestor’s address, and you cannot help another business send e-mail to that address or have another business send e-mail on your behalf to that address.

Finally, it is illegal for you to sell or transfer the e-mail addresses of people who choose not to receive your e-mail, unless you transfer the addresses so another entity can comply with the law.

           Give a valid postal address. CAN-SPAM says you must include your valid physical postal address in advertisements or solicitations.

           Don’t harvest e-mails. Have you ever been tempted to go onto a Web site and “grab” the e-mails you find to use in your marketing? Don’t do it. That’s called harvesting, and it is specifically prohibited by law if a Web site or Web service publishes a notice barring such activity.

           Don’t use zombie computers. The law also forbids using another computer without authorization (a “zombie computer”) to send commercial e-mail from or through it.

 

SIDEBAR

Engaging in E-commerce? Here are ‘rules of the road’

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the governmental watchdog over all commerce, including Internet marketing. Here are some of the laws and guides that you should know, if you are planning to engage in e-commerce:

·         Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), passed by Congress in October 1998, requires the FTC to issue and enforce rules concerning children’s online privacy. COPPA’s primary goal is to place parents in control over what information is collected from their children online. For information on COPPA, go to , where you can find a compliance checklist to help you identify areas in which your privacy policies could be improved.

·         Advertising and Marketing on the Internet: Rules of the Road. This downloadable pdf tells how to comply with truth-in-advertising laws when marketing on the Internet. It is available at http://tiny.cc/webmktg.

·         Big Print. Little Print. What’s the Deal? How to Disclose Details.This brochure describes advertising and disclosure requirements for sellers of “free” or low-cost computers. Available at http://tiny.cc/disclosure

·         The CAN-SPAM Act: Requirements for Commercial Emailers. The requirements of CAN-SPAM are given in this four-page brochure, downloadable at http://tiny.cc/canspam.

·         Dot Com Disclosures: Information about Online Advertising. This brochure describes the information businesses should consider as they develop online ads to ensure that they comply with the law. Download the pdf at http://tiny.cc/onlineads

·         Securing Your Server: Shut the Door on Spam. This pdf encourages computer owners to secure their network servers to prevent unauthorized users from hijacking them to send spam. Download at http://tiny.cc/secure904.

·         Security Check: Reducing Risks to your Computer Systems. This brochure explains the federal requirement to have a security plan safeguarding customer’s personal information. Download at http://tiny.cc/reducerisks.

Additionally, the following business alerts will help you stay in compliance with the law:

·         Childrens Online Privacy Protection Rule: Not Just for Kids’ Sites (http://tiny.cc/coppa)

·         “Remove Me” Responses and Responsibilities: Email Marketers Must Honor “Unsubscribe” Claims (http://tiny.cc/remove691)

·         Selling on the Internet: Prompt Delivery Rules (http://tiny.cc/prompt)

·         What’s Dot and What’s Not: Domain Name Registration Scams (http://tiny.cc/domain66)

 

SIDEBAR

Spamming fines no small thing

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the watchdog over violations of the CAN-SPAM Act. Each violation can cause a fine of up to $11,000—and those fines can add up quickly. A few examples illustrate:

• In February 2008, a federal judge ordered Sili Neutraceuticals, LLC, and Brian McDaid to pay more than $2.5 million for making false advertising claims and sending illegal e-mail messages in violation of the FTC Act and the CAN-SPAM Act.

• In March 2008, online advertiser ValueClick and its subsidiaries settled with the FTC for $2.9 million because they were allegedly using deceptive e-mails, banner ads, and pop-ups to drive traffic, and they failed to secure customers’ financial information.

• In 2005, a Florida man was fined $120,000 for numerous Can-Spam violations, including falsifying the “from” field in email addresses, using deceptive subject lines, failing to identify the sender, and failing to provide an electronic unsubscribe option.


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