Email, Business, and the CAN-SPAM Act

Most businesses use email to communicate with their customers, potential customers, and referral sources.  However, business owners may not be aware that their communications may be subject to the CAN-SPAM Act if the communication is primarily commercial in nature.

The CAN-SPAM Act defines commercial messages as "any electronic mail message, the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service, including email that promotes content on commercial websites."  According to the Act, any business message may be commercial, transactional or relationship, or other content.  It can also be a combination of more than one of those types of content.  In a combination situation, the primary purpose will govern.

It is important that business owners familiarize themselves with the rules.  Each separate email violation can be subject to penalties of up to $16,000!  Here are a few tips from the FTC's The CAN-SPAM Act: A Compliance Guide for Business:

1. Don't use false or misleading header information.

2. Don't use deceptive subject lines.

3. Identify the message as an ad.

4. Tell recipients where you're located.

5. Tell recipients how to opt out of receiving future email from you.

6. Honor opt-out requests promptly.

7. Monitor what others are doing on your behalf.

Many business owners use applications like Mail Chimp to help them manage their email lists and campaigns.  These types of applications purport to comply with the federal regulations.  However, it is the business owner's responsibility to monitor all applications and employees who send email on their behalf.