What You Need To Know About The CAN-SPAM Law

I am constantly being asked by clients, associates, consultants, recruiters, trainers, staffing agencies, professional coaches, and many others about the  CAN-SPAM act that went into effect at the beginning of 2004, and how it affects them. So I thought I would give you a quick break down of the things you must do to stay compliant and give you the link to read it yourself.

Read the entire law here:  http://www.spamlaws.com/federal/108s877.html

CAN-SPAM is an acronym for “The Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act” and the new legislation does pack a punch. Serious offenders can now be fined up to $2 million or sent to jail for up to five years!

Make sure you know before the law before you start sending your messages.

FYI – The act does not make sending spam illegal. It regulates the way that spam may be sent. Spam is unsolicited commercial email. Note that ‘e-zine’ publishers, or anyone else with a list, whose list was created by each person specifically requesting to be on that list, is not sending unsolicited email.

If you were to send business e-mail that wasn’t requested, to comply with the act, you would need to:

1. Put an accurate name and email address in the “from” line of your e-mail message.

2. Make sure your subject line accurately represents the content of your email message.

3. Include your correct postal address in the email message.

4. Make sure there’s an easy way to unsubscribe from your list and that it occurs within 10 days of the request. If you use a system to send your emails, such as a list manager, autoresponder, or e-zine publishing system, this link and the underlying unsubscribe capability are probably built into the system for you.

5. If it’s a commercial email that the recipient truly didn’t request – s/he isn’t a subscriber, a customer, or a client and hasn’t specifically requested the email – you must indicate in the subject line that the email message is an advertisement.

So, my opinion is that if you have a true opt-in list of people who have requested to be on your list, you don’t have much to worry about regarding the CAN-SPAM act.

Some of you have had occasion to hear me say that you shouldn’t add people to your list just because you know them, have taken classes with them, have exchanged emails with them, or have presented a tele-class, webinar, or workshop to them. You are much better off sending an email announcing your new e-zine, for example, and asking them to subscribe to it.

An even better idea is to only put people on your list that have confirmed their subscription.

Sometimes called double opt-in, this means that when someone subscribes to your e-zine or list, they receive an email asking them to either reply or click through a link in the email message to confirm their subscription. This ensures that the person at that email address is willing to receive your emails. It also allows you (or your 3rd party list management system) to hold onto those emails as proof of intent to join the list if there’s ever a question or complaint later.

Marketing using email is challenging these days, but there’s no denying that e-mail is still one of the most affordable, effective ways to convert interested prospects into customers, and to develop valuablerelationships with your existing customer base. Even though most of us aren’t sending what we would define as unsolicited commercial email messages, it makes sense to do everything we can to avoid problems. So, I recommend using double opt-in subscription and following steps 1-5 above. Better safe than sorry!

Note: This is not legal advice. Consult your lawyer for full and accurate understanding of how this law may affect you.

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