How does the CAN-SPAM Act affect email campaigns?
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How does the CAN-SPAM Act affect email campaigns?

How does the CAN-SPAM Act affect email campaigns?

Sunday, February 19, 2023 / Michael Kettenring

Every marketeer is seeking the right balance between an effective campaign and staying within the boundaries of the law. So, what is spam? What is an unsolicited bulk email? What regulations determine whether your email against the law?

There is a lot of confusion surrounding these questions. Many people seem to carry the misconception that any cold or unsolicited email is spam, and that spam is illegal. To start with, let’s clarify the distinction between “spam” and illegal email. “Spam” is not a legal term, and definitions vary. A spam message may not be illegal, and an illegal message may not be spam, by certain definitions.

“Unsolicited” means that the recipient has not granted verifiable permission for the message to be sent. Bulk means that the message is sent as part of a larger collection of messages, all having substantively identical content. According to some extreme sources emails are often considered “Spam”, if they are both unsolicited and sent as bulk. This would effectively label 99% of all email traffic as Spam, stopping all promotions.

To create a common ground, the US has introduced a law – The CAN-SPAM Act  - passed  by the United States Congress in 2003. The CAN-SPAM Act is a US law that governs the sending of commercial emails.

The CAN-SPAM Act is a US law that governs the sending of commercial emails. Interestingly, the CAN-SPAM Act doesn’t require permission to send an email as other country’s commercial messaging laws have established. What it does require is that the recipient has the right to have you stop emailing them. This is known as an opt-out method, typically provided through an unsubscribe link included in the footer of the email.

If you conduct email marketing campaigns, you need to comply with the CAN-SPAM Act. Here are some steps you can take to comply:

  1. Provide clear and accurate information: You need to provide clear and accurate information about the sender of the email, the subject line, and the content of the email.
  2. Use a valid header: You need to use a valid header that accurately reflects the sender and domain name of the email.
  3. Provide a clear and easy-to-use opt-out mechanism: You need to provide a clear and easy-to-use opt-out mechanism that allows the recipient to unsubscribe from future emails.
  4. Honor opt-out requests promptly: You need to honor opt-out requests promptly, typically within 10 business days.
  5. Include a physical address: You need to include a physical address in the email that identifies the sender's location.
  6. Identify the email as an advertisement: You need to clearly identify the email as an advertisement, typically by including a label such as "advertising" or "promotion."
  7. Obtain consent: You need to obtain consent from the recipient before sending commercial emails. You can do this by obtaining opt-in consent or by obtaining implied consent if you have an existing business relationship with the recipient.
  8. Use a reliable email service provider: You should use a reliable email service provider that has a good reputation and that can help you comply with the CAN-SPAM Act.


It's important to note that the CAN-SPAM Act is a complex law, and there may be additional steps you need to take to comply fully with its requirements. Therefore, it is recommended that you seek legal advice to ensure that your email marketing campaigns are fully compliant with the CAN-SPAM Act.

READ ALSO: Finding the right Balance between Personalized Marketing and Customer Privacy

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