With the rise of smarter tracking pixels and integration of data from multiple customer touch-points, businesses can easily ‘mine’ sensitive buyer information and reach out to leads without their consent.

Privacy is a top issue most industries struggle with. Companies that pride themselves on their sterling reputation do not want to be associated with peers who conduct outreaches with promotional (or vulgar content) without permission or solicitation. Direct Marketing channels like emails fall victim to these underhanded tactics and their credibility is undermined. These factors have spurred the adoption of preventive measures like the CAN-SPAM Act. Not paying heed to it results in legal action taken against the offending entity and the levying of fines.


The CAN-SPAM Act was passed in 2003. Effective from 1st January 2004, it stands for Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing and was enforced out of a need to keep inboxes uncluttered and free of marketing or adult content not requested by the recipient. From the late 90s onwards the public struggled with a barrage of misleading, deceptive and frankly distasteful email messages that often pushed important correspondences down the list and frazzled account holders. The situation steadily worsened and the administration decided it was time to put in place guidelines governing the mass send out of such emails so that people could steer clear of scams and only receive updates from the brands and agencies they trusted.

The US Federal State Commission (FSC) is tasked with monitoring compliance to CAN-SPAM and the Department of Justice prosecutes violations.


The CAN-SPAM Act applies to promotional or marketing content and doesn’t take into account personal messages. Companies and businesses can reach out to buyers and leads if:

  • They have explicit permission or consent to do so.
  • They wish to confirm a recent transaction.
  • They want to send updates or notifications regarding the guarantee/warranty of a purchased item or send across the delivery status and tracking number.
  • They want to intimate an account holder of any changes made to an existing account.

Anything that falls outside the boundary of these qualifications is considered SPAM and the recipient has every right to report the business to the FSC.

In short CAN-SPAM ensures that

  • Email account holders do not receive unsolicited messages that they may find annoying or vulgar from untrustworthy sources.
  • Email account holders are not tricked into opening messages that they do not wish to read or pay attention to.
  • Email account holders do not fall prey to digital scams that result in the loss of millions of dollars every year.
  • Emails in general remain a productive and reliable means of one on one communication.


The CAN-SPAM Act is fairly straightforward. It has a handful of simple rules which must be followed by every company, agency, institution and business to avoid being charged with violation.

  • Promotional Content Can Only Be Sent Out to Recipients Who Give Affirmative Consent to It
  • A business may not reach out to recipients with marketing messages unless explicitly asked to do so. Companies reserve the right to update their customers of transactions and delivery progress. But when it comes to strictly promotional content, buyers and prospects can either request it of their own accord or take up the business’s offer of regular updates by entering their details into an opt-in form with double confirmation at the vendor website. Often free downloads also state upfront that availing of the gift gives the company sponsoring it the right to send promotional messages to the recipient and this is considered to be CAN-SPAM compliant.

  • Recipients Who Have Provided Affirmative Consent Should Be Able to Opt-Out of Further Updates.
  • Since preferences and priorities change all the time, businesses sending out email campaigns must allow their subscribers the freedom to opt out of future updates. The link to unsubscribe is a mandatory part of a promotional email and it should be clearly visible to the reader. Further this link needs to stay functional for 30 days after the blast. The process of unsubscribing has to be completed in a maximum of two steps. The recipients can be taken to a web-page where they can either exit one particular list or all the lists they have signed up for with the vendor. Once a user unsubscribes, his address should be removed from the company database within 10 working days and can’t be leased or rented to a third party under any circumstance.

  • Email Subject Lines Should Not Be Deceptive
  • There is a fine line between clever and misleading. A promotional email must have a real ‘reply to’ address that stays functional for up to 30 days after the transmission and which readers can use to get in touch with the sender. The physical or postal address of the business should also be part of it. These factors boost trust and building trust should be the ultimate goal of a company performing the outreach. The actual subject line must state that the content is promotional in nature. If it is meant for adult viewers or is explicit in any way, that too must be declared. No recipient should open a message and feel cheated or deceived.

  • Email Addresses Should Be Legally Procured
  • The internet can’t be scoured for available email addresses. Social media accounts can’t be tapped for contact information. A business can’t generate addresses randomly and send out emails in the hope of connecting with prospects. These practices are illegal. Only leads that solicit promotional content or give consent to receiving updates can be a part of a company mailing list.

All legit email clients and marketers are aware of CAN-SPAM laws and adhere to them. Failing to do so can prove to be disastrous for your business.


Email accounts like Gmail and Yahoo empower users with the ability to relegate unsolicited messages to the ‘Spam’ folder. Too many of these tags hurt the Sender Score of an email domain and restrict the ability of the business to reach users and prospects. A low score also prompts mail clients to raise the alert ‘This message may be from a Spammer’ and hurts the company reputation by putting off potential buyers.

If legal action is initiated against a business found guilty of not complying with the CAN-SPAM, possible criminal penalties include up to 5 years of imprisonment, $3 million dollars in fine and the confiscation of the hardware (and software) used to perpetrate the act. Over 1700 CAN-SPAM enforcement officers maintain constant vigil in the US and Canada and are swift to take action against violators.

Spam is not desirable. Period! There is no logical reason to resort to it especially when transparency and genuine personalization are the approaches that yield the biggest pay-offs.


AmeriList Email Marketing solutions put millions of prospects at your fingertips. We understand the provisions of the CAN-SPAM Act and follow all the guidelines diligently. Each and every address in our database is confirmed through double opt-in and comes from proprietary websites. We specialize in crafting intriguing and responsive campaigns that capture the attention of leads and fulfill the legal requirements a 100%.

For more information on how Amerilist solutions can help you become CAN-SPAM compliant, call 1-800-457-2899 or email a representative at sales@amerilist.com

Can Spam Compliant