CAN-SPAM Act – Dealing with Unsolicited Email

Spam Spam Spam by Marcus Meissner from Flickr (Creative Commons License)
Spam Spam Spam by Marcus Meissner from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

If I meet you and you add me to your mailing list without asking my first, I’ll be annoyed but I’ll give you a few emails to show how you add value to my life. But if we’ve never met and you’re sending me unsolicited email, I don’t like you. It’s because of people in the latter category that I’m glad we have the CAN-SPAM Act.

The CAN-SPAM Act is a federal law for sending ads via email and text messages. It says you can’t use false header information or deceptive subject lines and you have to identify your message as an advertisement. This law also requires you to make it easy for people to unsubscribe from your list. The instructions for unsubscribing must be clear, conspicuous, and easy for an ordinary person to recognize and understand.

This law is easy to follow, which is probably why I find it so annoying when companies violate it. The biggest mistake I see people make is creating a mailing list without and unsubscribe option – usually because they don’t use a service like Mail Chimp that has this option built-in.

What’s the worst case scenario if you violate this rule? A $16,000 fine per email you send in violation of this law.

So what can you do if you’re getting spam email and you want to report the person? Forward the spam email to the Federal Trade Commission at Their site On Guard Online has some other useful tips for managing and reducing the amount of spam email you receive.

I work with a lot of entrepreneurs and I occasionally meet someone who doesn’t understand the business and legal dos and don’ts of email lists. Most of the time a corrective email to the person is enough to stop their behavior. (Footnote: Too many marketing “gurus” are telling entrepreneurs to add everyone they meet to their mailing list without getting consent. Stop encouraging poor etiquette and rudeness! You’re making new business owners who follow your advice look bad.)

Unfortunately, the friendly corrective message doesn’t always work. Recently I received 7 unwanted unsolicited spammy advertisements from a company that claimed to be member of a business organization I belong to. I let it go initially because the association itself is awesome, as are the majority of other members I’ve met at events. But then I heard through a trusted source that this company is continuing this behavior despite being told to stop. (They allegedly claim that what they’re doing isn’t wrong.) If they won’t listen to reason, perhaps they’ll listen to the feds. I forwarded all 7 emails to the FTC. Hopefully that will fix it.

I’m all for people behaving properly online. If you want to chat more about this topic, please contact me directly or connect with me on social media via TwitterFacebookYouTube, or LinkedIn.

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