Kicking email symbolAs if keeping up with emails isn’t challenging enough, I find my inbox filled with new promotional messages (SPAM) every day. And, no, I’m not talking about scams from overseas con artists. I’m talking about North American companies and start-ups that believe their products and services will be valuable to me as a blogger/marketer.

Now, it’s possible that when I downloaded the occasional white paper or report, the vendors shared my contact information with partner companies. But, there are still way too many that arrive regularly. It’s not only annoying, it is time consuming to unsubscribe from each one.

It makes me wonder why companies risk ticking people off and damaging their brands. It’s possible that their success rates outweigh the risks, and that’s why they continue to do it, BUT, sending mass commercial messages to people who did not subscribe to them is against the law! 

Here’s what the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection says on its site:

Despite its name, the CAN-SPAM Act doesn’t apply just to bulk email. It covers all commercial messages, which the law defines as ‘any electronic mail message the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service,’ including email that promotes content on commercial websites. The law makes no exception for business-to-business email. That means all email – for example, a message to former customers announcing a new product line – must comply with the law.

Each separate email in violation of the CAN-SPAM Act is subject to penalties of up to $16,000, so non-compliance can be costly.”

So, just in case you weren’t aware, here are 7 tips from the FTC.

  1. Don’t use false or misleading header information. Your “From,” “To,” “Reply-To,” and routing information – including the originating domain name and email address – must be accurate and identify the person or business who initiated the message.
  2. Don’t use deceptive subject lines. The subject line must accurately reflect the content of the message.
  3. Identify the message as an ad. The law gives you a lot of leeway in how to do this, but you must disclose clearly and conspicuously that your message is an advertisement.
  4. Tell recipients where you’re located. Your message must include your valid physical postal address. This can be your current street address, a post office box you’ve registered with the U.S. Postal Service, or a private mailbox you’ve registered with a commercial mail receiving agency established under Postal Service regulations.
  5. Tell recipients how to opt out of receiving future email from you. Your message must include a clear and conspicuous explanation of how the recipient can opt out of getting email from you in the future. Craft the notice in a way that’s easy for an ordinary person to recognize, read, and understand. Creative use of type size, color, and location can improve clarity. Give a return email address or another easy Internet-based way to allow people to communicate their choice to you. You may create a menu to allow a recipient to opt out of certain types of messages, but you must include the option to stop all commercial messages from you. Make sure your spam filter doesn’t block these opt-out requests.
  6. Honor opt-out requests promptly. Any opt-out mechanism you offer must be able to process opt-out requests for at least 30 days after you send your message. You must honor a recipient’s opt-out request within 10 business days. You can’t charge a fee, require the recipient to give you any personally identifying information beyond an email address, or make the recipient take any step other than sending a reply email or visiting a single page on an Internet website as a condition for honoring an opt-out request. Once people have told you they don’t want to receive more messages from you, you can’t sell or transfer their email addresses, even in the form of a mailing list. The only exception is that you may transfer the addresses to a company you’ve hired to help you comply with the CAN-SPAM Act.
  7. Monitor what others are doing on your behalf. The law makes clear that even if you hire another company to handle your email marketing, you can’t contract away your legal responsibility to comply with the law. Both the company whose product is promoted in the message and the company that actually sends the message may be held legally responsible.

If you want to file a complaint to the FTC it can help it “detect patterns of wrong-doing, and lead to investigations and prosecutions. The FTC enters all complaints it receives into Consumer Sentinel, a secure online database that is used by thousands of civil and criminal law enforcement authorities worldwide.”

Do you receive unwanted e-mails? What do you do about it?

Are you guilty of sending unwanted emails? Come on, fess up!

Digiprove sealCopyright protected by Digiprove © 2013 Elaine Fogel
Acknowledgements: FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection
Some Rights Reserved
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