May 2008


Email marketing

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FTC updates CAN-SPAM rules

Posted 5/20/2008 5:07:43 PM by Mark Reichard

On May 12, the US Federal Trade Commission approved updates to four areas of the Federal legislation known as CAN SPAM.  Two minor updates had to do with the requirement for commercial mail to include a physical address (the new rules say that a valid post office box is OK) and with the definition of a person (yes, corporations count).

The two areas that may have a significant impact are:

New requirement about opting out of email lists.  The intent of the updates is to ensure that opting out is easy for mail recipients.  There are some obvious conditions that should not impact legitimate senders (the recipient cannot be asked to pay a fee, for example), but there is also a new requirement that opting out must be "one click", which means in effect that your site cannot ask users to log in or provide any information other than their email address to log out.  If your user profiles for email also include other information (e.g. e-commerce order history, for example) and you require users to log in to access all of their data, then the updates could be a bit of a headache for you.

Updates to the definition of the sender of commercial mail.  Under the updated rules, the sender of a message is the person who controls the content of the message.  This means that if your organization uses a third party service to send mails, it is the single person whose name appears in the "from" field of the email that is responsible for providing opt-out functionality, not the vendor.  Senders, even when they do not use a third party service, also sometimes have separate domains for the "from" address of their emails and the "sender" (technically the "mail-from" header).  This was previously legal (although a bad idea for deliverability), but it is no longer.

Now would probably be a good time to review your organization's CAN SPAM compliance and make any necessary updates.

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