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Is It Spam? Bulk Email Marketing Laws Examined


Thanks to the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003, otherwise known as CAN SPAM, email marketing now has to be carefully organized and implemented to avoid getting a can-spam complaint. Before you start an email marketing campaign for your business, it is important to understand the SPAM law. What it comes down to is making sure the person you're sending the message to asked to receive it, and that you're being honest.

What is the SPAM Law?

The SPAM law requires that all commercial emailers adhere to the following:

  • Do not use false or misleading information anywhere in the email's subject or header. All information regarding the domain name, sender and recipient must be accurately displayed.

  • Allow the recipients to opt-out of receiving further communications. The opt-out should remain active for at least 30 days from the date the email was sent. The law allows up to 10 business days for commercial emailers to remove the email address from their mass email marketing lists and to stop emailing. No business can transfer an email address that doesn't want to receive communication to another list, or help someone else start to send an email to the address.

  • The email must be labeled as an advertisement and provide a physical address of the sender.


How Can You Avoid a CAN-SPAM Complaint?

Businesses can avoid complaints by ensuring they are in full compliance with the law. Before you start sending out email messages, make sure to offer a place on your website to provide an email address, as well as a check box that allows people to choose whether or not they wish to receive communications from you. If an individual on your mailing list unsubscribes, take steps to ensure they no longer receive communications from you. Do not sell or buy any email addresses to create a marketing list for your business.

What Happens if You Violate the Law?

Each violation can land up to $16,000 in fines. Depending on the severity and nature of the violation, the SPAM email may also be subject to laws governing false advertising. The government can also seek punishment through fine or imprisonment for acts such as:

  • Using scripts or automatic programs to create more than one email account and/or to send commericial emails.
  • Registering for several email accounts or domains with false information.
  • Falsifying information in the header of emails and taking steps to initiate the sending of those messages.


When sending commercial emails to people on a mailing list for your business, make sure you list the address of the physical location of your business, allow an unsubscribe option, and put accurate information in the header of the email, along with a correct subject. This way, you're not violating anything. Never use the wrong domain or an automatic program to send the emails. Make sure something in the message clarifies the recipient is receiving the message because she signed up to receive it. This is the best way to make sure you're not sending SPAM.

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