Business Law

Understand the CAN-SPAM Law for eMarketing

Congress passed the law known as CAN-SPAM to protect consumers and businesses from unsolicited electronic communications, known as spam. Officially called the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act, CAN-SPAM establishes specific legal requirements for emails, text messages, and other electronic communications sent by businesses. CAN-SPAM rules vary, depending on the content and nature of the message.

Rules Cover Commercial Messages

CAN-SPAM governs electronic messages that contain commercial content. "Commercial" messages are those that primarily advertise or promote a product or service. For example, an email announcing the release of a new product is subject to CAN-SPAM. The statute's rules also apply to emails or text messages that refer recipients to a commercial website.

Some Business Messages Are Exempt

Transactional or relationship messages are exempt from nearly all CAN-SPAM rules. These types of messages involve an existing commercial transaction or keep a customer informed about an ongoing commercial relationship. For example, emails that inform customers that their orders have shipped or alert them that a product has been recalled are exempt from CAN-SPAM rules.

CAN-SPAM Outlaws Certain Practices

For all commercial, transactional, and relationship messages, CAN-SPAM requires that the sender's domain name, email address, and other routing information be accurate. A commercial message's "To" and "From" lines cannot contain false or misleading information. Subject lines cannot mislead recipients about the message's nature or content. A commercial message must state that the message is an advertisement or is seeking new business. It must also include the sender's postal address.

Recipients Can Opt Out

CAN-SPAM requires that a commercial email or text message provide recipients a method to opt out of future messages. Many businesses use a return email address as an opt-out method. The sender must stop sending messages within 10 days of receiving the recipient's opt-out request.

Violations May Result in Severe Penalties

Sending illegal spam can be expensive. Each separate message that violates CAN-SPAM rules may result in a fine of up to $16,000. Some deceptive acts, such as sending multiple messages that mislead recipients about their origin, may even result in imprisonment. More than one party may be legally responsible for a CAN-SPAM violation. For example, a company whose product is promoted in an illegal spam message, as well as the company that sent the message, may be subject to CAN-SPAM penalties.

A Business Lawyer Can Help

The law related to CAN-SPAM and commercial electronic messages sent by businesses is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact a lawyer.

Have a ecommerce question?
Get answers from local attorneys.
It's free and easy.
Ask a Lawyer

Get Professional Help

Find a ECommerce lawyer
Practice Area:
Zip Code:
 
How It Works
  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Connect with local attorneys
NEED PROFESSIONAL HELP?

Talk to an attorney

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you