Email Marketing: Five requirements for CAN SPAM compliance

Posted By: Dave Kopf
Post Date: 02/14/2017

NO ONE LIKES to see a tsunami of spam messages in their inboxes. Back in 2003, spam got to be such a problem that the federal government passed the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing (CAN SPAM) Act. CAN SPAM, as a result, is set of laws that govern how businesses send their marketing emails.

Businesses large and small must comply with CAN SPAM – including your dealership. That said, you shouldn’t think of CAN SPAM as some kind of hassle or unnecessary set of capricious laws invented to bog down your business. If anything, they outline a set of solid business practices that will help you reinforce your dealership’s reputation for good service and for being a reliable, responsible member of the local community, as opposed to a shady operation. Bottom line? You want your email marketing efforts to conform to CAN SPAM.

If the positive aspects of CAN SPAM aren’t clear enough, know that there are fines attached to CAN SPAM violations. The Federal Trade Commission, which administers CAN SPAM, can fine each separate email that violates the law up to $16,000 — and that can add up very quickly.

CAN SPAM outlines some very simple requirements that any business — including your powersports retail store or service shop — must follow. They govern the following:

  • Email headers
  • Subject lines
  • Labeling of advertising content
  • Opt-outs and unsubscribes
  • Providing a valid postal address

First, headers cannot be falsified. The “from,” “to,” “reply-to” and all routing information, such as the domain name and originating email address, must be legitimate, and must accurately identify the message’s actual sender.

The subject line must not be deceptive, and needs to be tied to the message’s actual content. This is particularly important when it comes to bait-and-switch subject lines that promise something the email won’t deliver.

If the message is an advertisement, the message must clearly indicate that it is indeed an advertisement. Your marketing messages will likely fall under this description. You don’t have to do it in the subject line, and the Act doesn’t require specific language, but it does require that the message make it “clear and conspicuous” that the message is, indeed, an ad.

The email must provide a way for recipients to opt out or unsubscribe. You can handle that process in a variety of ways. If you’re using a third-party email service or software program, there are tools that will help you with that process. Furthermore, CAN SPAM very clearly states that recipients wishing to opt out or unsubscribe must also be able to do so in a very simple and easy fashion. And you want to do that, because if a user can’t easily unsubscribe from an email, he or she might categorize your message as spam in order to save time, which could hurt your overall email marketing efforts.

You might consider sending emails to an opt-in list only. “People have to opt-in for our newsletter,” said Sean Wilkinson, sales and marketing manager at Trev Deeley Motorcycles in Vancouver, BC. “We would never spam anyone. It’s not what Trev Deeley Motorcycles represents.”

If the message is commercial in nature, which your marketing messages most certainly will be, the message must include a valid postal address for the entity sending the message. This is to provide the recipient with another method for opting out of unwanted messages.

Lastly, this isn’t a requirement, but rather something you should be aware of and understand: you cannot offload your CAN SPAM obligations and liabilities to your email service. Just because a third-party is sending the messages on your behalf, you must live up to your responsibilities.

These rules are exceedingly simple, and any responsible business owner can see that they are reasonable requirements. It also will help you ensure that your business maintains respectful and professional email practices that strengthen customer relationships over the long haul.

Disclaimer: The above article does not constitute legal advice. Dealers wishing to ensure they maintain complete legal compliance with any law or regulation should seek advice from legal counsel.


« Return To The List