The Federal Trade Commission announced that it has completed its first review of the CAN-SPAM Rule, which establishes requirements for commercial email messages and gives recipients the right to opt out of receiving them. The Commission voted to keep the Rule with no changes. As a reminder, the Rule requires that a commercial email:
- contain accurate header and subject lines,
- identify itself as an advertisement (it’s important to note the FTC has said, “if recipients have given their prior affirmative consent to get messages from you, you’re exempt from the requirement of identifying the message as an ad or solicitation….the law gives you flexibility in how to do that effectively, but remember that deceptive subject lines are illegal”),
- include a valid physical address,
- and offer recipients a way to opt out of future messages.
Which modifications were declined?
Some commenters favored shortening the unsubscribe time-period, viewing ten business days as unnecessarily lengthy, particularly in light of available technologies that allow companies to conduct automated processing of opt-outs. Some of these commenters urged the Commission to adopt alternative time-periods as short as one day or one business day. However, Industry and trade association groups that opposed shortening the time-period typically noted that small businesses that often process opt-out requests manually or without the assistance of automated processing.
In terms of adding any additional opt-ins to transactional or commercial emails, the FTC ultimately determined that altering consent requirements would go beyond the text and scope Act.
What does this mean for us?
Basically, the law stays the same. Faultlessly handling unsubscribe requests within 10 business days remains arguably the most important part of CAN-SPAM compliance. In the past, failure to comply with unsubscribe rulings have caused large businesses to be fined, cited and embarrassed for slacking off when it comes to removing consumers from their communications. Broken links, no one responding to unsubscribe requests at a call center or corporate HQ are also vulnerable areas for even the most sophisticated operation.
BrightWave has been providing marketing consulting advice on CAN-SPAM since its inception and is a critical business partner on all privacy and legislation issues for its clients. Talk to us if you have any marketing compliance related questions (but also talk to your legal counsel!).
Here are two bonuses before we leave this post: