E-mail is one of the most effective communication tools utilized by businesses today. Marketing tools make it simple for companies of all levels to create a campaign, upload a list, and send out promotional e-mails to everyone, everywhere, whether they want it or not. Unfortunately, we have all experienced the annoyance of our inbox inundated with spam e-mails, which led the CAN-SPAM Act, a law that sets the rules for commercial e-mail.
Despite its name, the CAN-SPAM Act doesn’t only apply to bulk e-mail and makes no exception for business-to-business e-mail communication. Although the law is aimed at e-mail marketing campaigns, there are a few nuances in the rules that make it easy for unaware businesses to violate. Before you permit your employees to send out e-mails, newsletters, or marketing campaigns for your business, it is important to know what you can do to ensure your business is compliant with all the e-mail laws.
Penalties for violating the CAN-SPAM Act
Each separate e-mail in violation of the law is subject to penalties of up to $42,530, and more than one person may be held responsible for violations. Penalties can come with a hefty price, including imprisonment for violations such as:
- Registering for multiple e-mail accounts or domain names, using false information.
- Misleading others about the origin of the message.
- Generating e-mail addresses made up of random letters and numbers in the hope of reaching valid ones.
- Taking advantage of open proxies or relays without permission
Ensure you have permission
Most e-mail marketing laws require you to have permission to e-mail a person before you to send them newsletters or marketing campaigns. A client you have an existing business relationship with is considered “implied permission.” If you don’t have implied permission to e-mail a newsletter to a person, then they must express consent by writing their details on a in-store list or give permission by entering their e-mail address in a subscribe form on your website.
Type of Content
The content of an e-mail will determine if it is exempt from most provisions of the CAN-SPAM Act. An e-mail can contain three different types of information. Commercial content is an advertisement that promotes a commercial product or service. Transactional or relationship content is when there is an already agreed-upon relationship with a customer about an ongoing transaction. The third is called “other content,” and is neither commercial nor transactional or relationship. If the message contains only commercial content, it must comply with the requirements of CAN-SPAM.
Don’t use misleading header information
E-mail laws stipulate that you must not include incorrect or misleading information in these fields to try to trick people into opening your newsletters or e-mail campaigns. Make sure to include your company name in the “from” field to make it clear who sent the e-mail. You can be creative with your subject line that reflects the content of the e-mail, just don’t purposely deceive the recipients. If your e-mail is an advertisement, then make sure it is clear to recipients that this is a promotional message and not a personal e-mail from a friend.
Include your physical address
Most e-mail marketing laws require a valid postal address for your business in your e-mail newsletter or marketing campaigns. You can use the current street address of your business, a postbox address, or an address with a registered commercial mail-receiving company.
An option to opt-out
There must be a clear explanation of how the recipient can opt-out of receiving e-mails from your company. You are allowed to create a menu of certain types of messages the recipient can opt-out of, but you must also include the option to stop all commercial messages from you. You cannot make the recipient take various steps other than visiting a single page on an Internet website to be able to opt-out, and you must honor the request within ten business days.
Monitor what others are doing on your behalf
If you hire another company to handle your e-mail marketing, your business will still be held legally responsible for complying with the law. The company that sends the message, as well as the company whose product is being promoted in the message, can be held accountable if a violation of the law occurs.
In conclusion, adding the details of the CAN-SPAM Act in your employee handbook as well as a formal training to all employees will protect your business from accidental violations and potential penalties. Even if your business doesn’t send e-mail campaigns, training employees on the protocol of sending e-mails and internet content about your business will make them wiser and your business more secure.