The history of spam is full of interesting facts, like the 1st spam message was sent in 1864 via telegraph! But the CAN-SPAM Act isn’t about any old spam, it’s about email spam. Even though email marketing campaigns can target subscribers around the world, every country has different anti-spam regulations. In the United States, email service providers (ESPs) and mailbox providers (MBPs) can moderate unwanted commercial messages with the CAN-SPAM Act.

What is the CAN-SPAM ACT?

The Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing Act (CAN-SPAM) is an American law regulating electronic communications like email messages. As the acronym suggests, the primary purpose of CAN-SPAM rules is to protect consumers from unsolicited email messages, especially commercial email campaigns.

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), CAN-SPAM violations can include the following:

  • Misleading header information, such as unclear addresses (e.g., [email protected]), impersonation (e.g., [email protected]), or fakes (e.g., [email protected])
  • Lack of clear contact data, website domain name, or a valid physical postal address
  • Usage of deceptive subject lines, like “thank you for your order” when no order was placed
  • Email messages sent without an opt-in process or unsubscribe options. It’s also against CAN-SPAM to require additional Unsubscribe steps beyond one click

Further anti-spam email regulations may apply at the state level. For example, while CAN-SPAM allows sending transactional messages without an unsubscribe link, California’s privacy legislation (CCPA) prohibits the practice.

Businesses not following CAN-SPAM rules might face a fine of over $16,000 per email sent. But because internet regulation is complicated, anti-spam laws have gone largely unenforced since 2003.

Regardless of enforcement, the negative impact of poor sending practices include poor deliverability and eventually, the inability to send email to the inbox at all. Ensure all future emails comply to avoid damaging your sender reputation.

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