The Can-Spam Act , signed into law in 2003, was the first federal law to establish national standards for commercial e-mails. “CAN-SPAM” actually stands for “Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing”.
The Act gives recipients of spam – i.e. unwanted commercial advertisements sent by e-mail – the ability to prevent spammers from continuing to bombard them with e-mails.
The Can-Spam Act’s main requirements for businesses which send out bulk commercial e-mails are:
- The Can-Spam Act covers all commercial messages – even business-to-business e-mails;
- The header cannot be false or misleading;
- The subject line cannot be deceptive;
- The message must be identified as an advertisement; the Act leaves wide leeway in how to do this, as long as the sender clearly and conspicuously discloses that the message is an advertisement;
- The message must inform the recipient of where the sender is located. A post office box may be sufficient;
- The e-mail must clearly and conspicuously advise the recipient as to how it can opt-out of receiving future emails. The notice should be drafted so that it is easy for an ordinary person to recognize, read, and understand. The Act suggests using alternative type, size, or color to improve its visibility.
- There must be a simple, internet-based way for people to communicate their request to stop receiving the messages (such as a return email). Although the business may provide a menu to allow recipients to opt out of only certain types of messages, the business must include the option of stopping all messages.
- The opt-out requests must be complied with promptly – meaning within ten business days, and honoring requests made at least thirty days after the message was sent.
- The business cannot charge any fee or require any personal information (other than e-mail address) from the recipient in order to make the opt-out request.