Can I send that? The 7 biggest provisions in the CAN-SPAM Act

Can I send that? The 7 biggest provisions in the CAN-SPAM Act

We all receive commercial emails. Some are order confirmations while others are newsletters or deals. Some we read and others we quickly unsubscribe from. The CAN-SPAM act governs commercial emails in the United States. Canada has a similar law going into effect soon. As an online marketing agency, we feel that it is important to understand and, of course, follow the law. The FTC provides information to consumers and business about the Act. There are seven main provisions in the law.

  1. The header information must not be misleading or false. With the respect to CAN-SPAM, header information is the From address, the To address and the Reply-to address. The From address must clearly identify who is sending the email. Let’s say you received an email from that was really an e-newsletter from Search Light Airways about new low fares. That email header would likely be categorized as false and misleading.
  2. Subject lines cannot be deceptive. If Search Light Airways sent out an email with the subject “Let’s Foxtrot” advertising their new order for ten jumbo jets, then that subject would not be conveying the point of the message and could be construed as deceptive.
  3. You must note in the email (usually in the body) that the email is an advertisement.
  4. The body of the email must contain the company’s physical address. Note that this can be a P.O. Box or a private mailbox registered with the post office. Leaving out your company’s address from a newsletter is illegal. If you feel you’re a virtual company with an online presence only, then do not forget that when you registered as a corporation, you must have provided an address.
  5. Your email must have a way for readers to opt out from future messages. You cannot have a perpetual audience, they must be able to unsubscribe via an link to a webpage or by letting someone know by email as stated. For example, a commercial email can have a link embedded in it that takes a customer to a webpage that unsubscribes them right away or gives them the choice to receive either specific emails to stop all commercial emails from that company. An embedded link such as this seems to be more common than asking someone to send an email that asks what someone’s email marketing preferences are.
  6. Companies must “honor opt-out requests promptly.” Additionally, companies must honor these requests for at least 30 days after the email was sent out. Next, if someone does opt out, that must be processed within ten business days. In other words, if I receive a newsletter that I do not want and I unsubscribe, the company has ten business days to stop sending me emails.
  7. The FTC writes, “[each] separate email in violation of the law is subject of penalties of up to $16,000.” Let’s suppose that Search Light Airway’s email campaigns are run by an external marketing agency. Is Search Light Airways responsible for the infringement? Yes, the company who is sending the email is responsible and so is their marketing agency because the act states that the violation can be assessed on the company even if they did not monitor their marketing agency’s actions. So, if you are using an external marketing agency, then you must to check in with your agency when appropriate.

Search Light Internet Marketing designs and runs e-newsletter campaigns. Search Light also runs Search Engine Optimization campaigns (SEO), and designs and maintains attractive, responsive websites. We have had great success boosting clients’ rankings to page 1 on major search engines such as Google, which helps customers, find them. If you are interested in learning more about us, call 347-871-4141 or visit us on the web at

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Chief Content Officer at Searchlight Online Marketing

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