On December 16, 2003, the CAN-SPAM Act was passed, making last Sunday the 15th anniversary of email compliance in the United States.

15 years is practically an eternity in internet time, so to refresh your memory, here are just a few requirements posed by the CAN-SPAM Act:

  • Emailers must not email recipients who have previously opted out of their communication.
  • Senders must remove opt-outs from their email list within ten business days.
  • Each email must have an opt-out mechanism that makes it easy for consumers to opt out of all future mailings.
  • Emails must include the physical address of the person or business sending it.

Of course, that’s not everything. For a more complete discussion of the CAN-SPAM Act, get the Email Compliance Handbook.

Why CAN-SPAM Still Matters

Things like GDPR and the California Consumer Privacy Act might dominate the headlines at the moment, but when CAN-SPAM violations can cost emailers thousands (if not millions), CAN-SPAM compliance is still absolutely critical to a healthy email program.

In fact, it might be more important, as increasingly intricate email marketing programs mean that email compliance is also more intricate. For instance, individual brands might send email from multiple ESPs, requiring a coordinated effort between departments, platforms, and marketers to stay CAN-SPAM compliant.

Fortunately, with today’s email technology, compliance can be automated. ESPs can add your unsubscribe links and mailing addresses for you, while platforms like UnsubCentral can store and sync opt-outs across platforms.

Email Compliance in 2019

As an email marketer, you’re probably looking for ways to celebrate CAN-SPAM’s birthday. Unfortunately, you’re a bit late. Then again, being CAN-SPAM and all, we figure as long as you celebrate within ten business days, you’re good to go!

But before you break out the cake and ice cream, there’s no better way to celebrate than by making sure your own CAN-SPAM compliance is in order. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Make sure you have a way to collect and manage your opt-outs. This is especially important if you send email from multiple ESPs. If you don’t have a way to systematically sync opt-outs across platforms, you may end up emailing an address that has explicitly opted out of your brand’s communication.
  • And make sure your emailing partners are honoring opt-outs too! Syncing opt-outs with partners and affiliates is important to maintain CAN-SPAM compliance too. If you use affiliate email marketing, be sure to set compliance expectations with your affiliates and monitor partner email activity for all mailings to make sure mailers aren’t abusing your list.
  • Check your unsubscribe link. Every marketing email you send must include this link, but that doesn’t mean you should hide it. By making your unsubscribe link hard-to-find, you increase the chances of email recipients simply marking your email as spam.
  • Is your mailing address correct? Including a mailing address is a simple, though still important, part of maintaining CAN-SPAM compliance. Don’t forget to keep it up-to-date!
  • Evaluate your email content. The CAN-SPAM Act covers email content as well, so make sure your routine is up to par. Are your subject lines misleading? Brands with a strong sense of humor might send emails with funny “from” names or obviously-inaccurate subject lines, but if it’s not something your audience will pick up on, it’s best to leave comedy to elsewhere in your marketing efforts.

For more help with email compliance, get UnsubCentral’s guide to Email Compliance.

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