Laws for Email Newsletters

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

If sending email newsletters is part of your marketing plan, you may be surprised to learn that there are specific laws regarding commercial emails. Here are some of the requirements as laid out by the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003:

It bans false or misleading header information. Your email's "From," "To," and routing information – including the originating domain name and email address – must be accurate and identify the person who initiated the email.

It prohibits deceptive subject lines. The subject line cannot mislead the recipient about the contents or subject matter of the message.

It requires that your email give recipients an opt-out method. You must provide a return email address or another Internet-based response mechanism that allows a recipient to ask you not to send future email messages to that email address, and you must honor the requests. You may create a "menu" of choices to allow a recipient to opt out of certain types of messages, but you must include the option to end any commercial messages from the sender.

Any opt-out mechanism you offer must be able to process opt-out requests for at least 30 days after you send your commercial email. When you receive an opt-out request, the law gives you 10 business days to stop sending email to the requestor's email address. You cannot help another entity send email to that address, or have another entity send email on your behalf to that address. Finally, it's illegal for you to sell or transfer the email addresses of people who choose not to receive your email, even in the form of a mailing list, unless you transfer the addresses so another entity can comply with the law.

It requires that commercial email be identified as an advertisement and include the sender's valid physical postal address. Your message must contain clear and conspicuous notice that the message is an advertisement or solicitation and that the recipient can opt out of receiving more commercial email from you. It also must include your valid physical postal address.

Not removing a person from your mailing list who asked to unsubscribe is not only annoying, but it can cost you up to $11,000 in fines.  Many entrepreneurs tend to act as though these laws only apply to larger, Fortune 500 type companies, but that is not the case.  They apply to you as the owner of small wedding planning company as well.  Cover your bases and be sure everything you are sending is above board legally.

As for those lead lists you receive from bridal shows, be sure to find out what the fine print is that the bride agrees to when she signs up for the show. If the fine print doesn't include permission to be contacted by vendors, you can also be in trouble for spamming. Though you may be able to build a strong case in your defense and against the bridal show organizers in this instance, it is an expensive process that is better nipped in the bud up front.

Feeling overwhelmed? Consider signing up for an email newsletter service that have systems in place that automatically incorporate these laws and that takes care of unsubscribers and other email administrative tasks for you.

Do you use email newsletters in your business?  Why or why not?

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