What is CAN SPAM and how does it affect me as an advertiser?

Facebook_Updated_Header-1.jpgThe CAN-SPAM Act was instated in 2003 in an effort to set and enforce rules to protect consumers from commercial email messages. While most advertisers are very aware of CAN SPAM’s requirements as it relates to the emails they send out directly, there tends to be some confusion about how it applies to emails that affiliates send.

Fortunately, the FTC has provided a straight forward way to determine who is the responsible party (the sender) of emails, and therefore responsible for CAN-SPAM compliance: 

Marketers whose goods, services, or websites are advertised or promoted in a message can designate one of the marketers as the “sender” for purposes of CAN-SPAM compliance as long as the designated sender:

  • meets the CAN-SPAM Act’s definition of “sender,” meaning that they initiate a commercial message advertising or promoting their own goods, services, or website;
  • is specifically identified in the “from” line of the message; and complies with the “initiator” provisions of the Act – for example, making sure the email does not contain deceptive transmission information or a deceptive subject heading, and ensuring that the email includes a valid postal address, a working opt-out link, and proper identification of the message’s commercial or sexually explicit nature.

If the designated sender doesn’t comply with the responsibilities the law gives to initiators, all marketers in the message may be held liable as senders. FTC CAN-SPAM Act: A Compliacnce Guide for Business

Simply put, if you are an advertiser and it is your product that is being advertised in an offer email, you are liable if the email is not CAN-SPAM Compliant. This means that you as a brand must be monitoring all emails sent my affiliates, and ensuring that they are honoring all requirements the law sets. First and foremost this means that they are honoring your current opt outs by scrubbing against your suppression list prior to sending email. This is where UnsubCentral comes into play, as we allow you to securely share suppression files and monitor the downloads and scrubs affiliates are performing. Additionally, we allow you to view the unsubscribes coming in on an individual affiliate basis, and communicate that back to your ESP.

Beyond honoring opt outs, what other rules do you as an advertiser need to ensure your affiliates follow?

  • Don’t use false or misleading email headers, ever!
  • Avoid deceptive subject lines
  • Identify the email message as an advertisement
  • Provide a valid physical address
  • Make it easy for recipients to opt-out

We recommend conducting internal audits, closely monitoring the UnsubCentral dashboard and affiliate download history and maintaining close relationships with affiliates to ensure compliance. What else do you do to stay CAN-SPAM compliant with partners?