What is CAN-SPAM?

CAN-SPAM ushered in the modern era of privacy regulations. CAN-SPAM, or the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003, regulates the way that commercial marketing communications are sent to consumers. Under CAN-SPAM, commercial communications must meet a set of obligations designed to protect consumers from unwanted messages like spam or marketing communications they didn’t opt to receive.

If senders are found in violation of CAN-SPAM, they can be fined upwards of $40,000 per email in violation. If you send any type of marketing email, especially in bulk, you’ll want to avoid these kinds of penalties like the plague. Thankfully, compliance with CAN-SPAM isn’t difficult, as most of its requirements are now considered email best practices. Let’s get into what compliance looks like.

Are you compliant?

CAN-SPAM was designed to regulate how commercial and marketing emails are sent and also sets a precedent for text messages sent via the internet. To be compliant with CAN-SPAM, you’ll need to ensure that all of your commercial communications meet the following standards:

1. “Don’t use false or misleading header information.”

This requirement asks senders to be clear in their email addresses and routing information so that recipients can clearly see who is sending the message.

This is especially important in the context of bulk email sends. Spam filters are more likely to examine emails sent from bulk senders, so it’s important to avoid any suspicion if you want your messages to make it to the inbox. One way to verify your identity as a reliable sender is to implement email authentication through DKIM, DMARC, and SPF. These forms of authentication help you to prove you are a reputable sender and can help guide your emails through spam filters and to your recipients.

2. “Don’t use deceptive subject lines.”

Subject lines in commercial communications should accurately reflect the content of the message. This doesn’t mean you can’t be creative with your copy! Your subject lines just need to be clear and honest.

In addition to risking your CAN-SPAM compliance, deceptive subject lines are generally a bad practice because they often get weeded out by spam filters on the way to your recipients’ inboxes.

3. “Identify the message as an ad.”

Any advertisement(s) should be clearly marked as such. This requirement aims to avoid any misrepresentation of intent in marketing communications.

4. “Tell recipients where you’re located.”

All commercial communications should include your brand’s physical mailing address.

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

It is crucial that consumers have the option to opt-in/out of receiving commercial communications from your brand. Unsubscribe buttons and links to preference centers should be clearly marked and available to recipients.

6. “Honor opt-out requests promptly.”

CAN-SPAM requires that unsubscribe requests be handled quickly. You must offer the option to unsubscribe/opt-out for free, and you must be able to process an individual’s unsubscribe/opt-out request within 10 business days.

This is most easily accomplished using list-unsubscribe to help recipients easily opt-out. Making the unsubscribe button/link easy to access will improve your relationship with your recipients in the long term in addition to keeping you compliant, Note: recipients cannot be forced to login to unsubscribe; the path to unsubscribing should be simple and require no additional action on the part of the recipient.

7. “Monitor what others are doing on your behalf.”

Even if you have contractors, agencies, or freelancers managing your marketing strategy, you are still responsible for maintaining CAN-SPAM compliance.

Penalties for non-compliance

If you or your business are found in violation of CAN-SPAM, the FTC can fine your business up to $43,792 per email found in violation of the above requirements. If you’re sending commercial email of any kind, becoming non-compliant isn’t worth the risk.

Privacy & first party data

As businesses and privacy regulations begin to put consumers in charge of their data (see the massive updates to privacy in iOS 15 last month), it’s more important than ever to understand your customers in sustainable and compliant ways. As marketers adjust to the new cookieless world, first party data has become true north in collecting customer information.

Knowing that you’ll have only the data volunteered by customers is a daunting prospect. Understanding your CLV can help streamline your marketing strategy by helping to predict a given customer’s loyalty to your brand and their long-term value in relation to the budget you spend to acquire and retain them. Retina AI’s CLV Academy teaches everything you need to know about CLV, including how to calculate it and apply it to your business. If you’re interested in learning how Retina can help your business, talk to one of our experts today to get started.