CAN-SPAM stands for “Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing”. George W Bush signed the CAN-SPAM Act into law in December 2003.

The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 established the first national standards for the sending of commercial emails. In short, the Act gives email recipients in the United States a legal right to stop commercial advertisers and solicitors from emailing them.

According to the Bureau of Consumer Protection, CAM-SPAM covers all commercial messages, which – as defined by law – includes any electronic email message that promotes a commercial service or product.

Penalties for Non-Compliance

As an email marketer there are three specific areas in which your emails must comply: content, unsubscribing and sending practices. Non-compliance of the CAN-SPAM Act can be costly, with each and every email in violation of the Act being subject to penalties of more than $40 thousand.

Practically, How Does This Law Affect Business Owners and Marketers?

The CAN-SPAM Act was designed to set email boundaries. As a US-based business, you must stop sending emails to any recipient that requests you to stop. The Act sets standards for commercial emailing, often referred to as ‘spam’.

The CAN-SPAM Act differentiates between a transactional email and a commercial email. There is no need to worry about CAN-SPAM compliance if you are emailing an automated purchase receipt or responding to a customer service enquiry. On the other hand, emails containing customer solicitation or marketing information must comply.

As an Email Marketer, How Can You Comply With CAN-SPAM?

No. 1: Your Email Must Clearly State The Identity Of Your Organization

When sending commercial emails, marketers often pretend to be a different or more prominent company or organization. They do this in order to improve the chance the recipient opens the message. Not only must your email accurately identify the business or staff member responsible for the message; your routing information (which includes the originating email address and domain name), and the From, To, and Reply-To information must be accurate.

No. 2: The Subject Line Can’t Be Deceptive

The subject line of your email must be an accurate reflection of the email’s content. If your email’s subject line discloses an ‘Inspirational Quote of the Day’ within the email, that is what your email must feature. The actual terminology of CAN-SPAM states that your subject line must be truthfully and accurately reflect its email content. The information can’t be misleading.

No. 3: If The Message You Are Conveying Is An Advertisement, This Information Must Be Disclosed Clearly And Conspicuously

You must make it clear that your email is an advertisement within its body. This can be achieved using a range of methods. You could insert small print at the bottom of your email, for example, stating the email is an electronic advertisement.

No. 4: Make Sure Your Recipients Know Where You Your Business is Physically Located

You must include a valid, physical postal address in each and every commercial email you send out. This address may be a post office box registered with the United States Postal Service, your organization’s current street address, or a private mailbox registered with your business.

No. 5: Let Your Email Recipients Know How to Opt-Out from Future Emails

CAN-SPAM requires you to offer users directions on unsubscribing from your emails. This information is typically placed at the bottom of an email. The opt-out information must be clear and conspicuous. Ensure that opt-out requests will not be blocked by your spam filter. A user must be able to recognize and easily find the opt-out information. In addition, the ‘universal unsub rule’ must be adhered to, which allows email recipients to unsubscribe from all future marketing emails from you.

No. 6: Promptly Attend to Opt-Out Requests

An email recipient’s opt-out request must be processed within 10 business days. Keep in mind that you are not allowed to…

  • Charge an “unsubscribe” fee.
  • Ask the email recipient for any personal information other than his/her email address.
  • Ask the recipient to take any further steps beyond sending a reply email or going to a single webpage to unsubscribe.

Once an email recipient has unsubscribed from your email messages, you must not transfer or sell their email address, even if it is in a mailing list format. The exception to this rule is that email addresses can be transferred to a company you’ve employed to help you comply with CAN-SPAM Act. Any contractor employed to handle online marketing or advertising must also abide by CAN-SPAM. The contracting company is liable for all violations.

No. 7: Be Aware of What Others (like Your Marketing Agency) Are Doing on Your Behalf

According to CAN-SPAM, you are legally responsibility for your email marketing, even if you employ a separate company to manage your campaign. Be aware of what anyone sending emails on your behalf is doing. You are liable for the actions of anyone you authorize or hire to send marketing emails on your behalf.

In Conclusion

Your business will be CAN-SPAM compliant if you follow the above seven guidelines. Third-party email platform providers typically try to automate any of the above criteria that can be automated. We strongly suggest you check your marketing emails before sending to ensure they meet all the CAN-SPAM criteria.


“CAN-SPAM Compliance: What Is CAN-SPAM & Why Does It Matter?” What Is Email Spam?,