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With the latest post in our blog series taking a Deep Dive into CAN-SPAM Compliance, we look at one of the most important aspects of the law – providing a way for email recipients to opt out of future email campaigns. This is a core element of the email compliance solutions we provide at OPTIZMO, so we take a particular interest in this aspect of CAN-SPAM. Let’s dive in.

What does The CAN-SPAM Act say?

  • 7704. Other protections for users of commercial electronic mail

(3) Inclusion of return address or comparable mechanism in commercial electronic mail

(A) In general

It is unlawful for any person to initiate the transmission to a protected computer of a commercial electronic mail message that does not contain a functioning return electronic mail address or other Internet-based mechanism, clearly and conspicuously displayed, that—

(i) a recipient may use to submit, in a manner specified in the message, a reply electronic mail message or other form of Internet-based communication requesting not to receive future commercial electronic mail messages from that sender at the electronic mail address where the message was received; and

(ii) remains capable of receiving such messages or communications for no less than 30 days after the transmission of the original message.

(B) More detailed options possible

The person initiating a commercial electronic mail message may comply with subparagraph (A)(i) by providing the recipient a list or menu from which the recipient may choose the specific types of commercial electronic mail messages the recipient wants to receive or does not want to receive from the sender, if the list or menu includes an option under which the recipient may choose not to receive any commercial electronic mail messages from the sender.

(C) Temporary inability to receive messages or process requests

A return electronic mail address or other mechanism does not fail to satisfy the requirements of subparagraph (A) if it is unexpectedly and temporarily unable to receive messages or process requests due to a technical problem beyond the control of the sender if the problem is corrected within a reasonable time period.

From the FTC’s CAN-SPAM Act: A Compliance Guide for Business

  1. Tell recipients how to opt out of receiving future email from you. Your message must include a clear and conspicuous explanation of how the recipient can opt out of getting email from you in the future. Craft the notice in a way that’s easy for an ordinary person to recognize, read, and understand. Creative use of type size, color, and location can improve clarity. Give a return email address or another easy Internet-based way to allow people to communicate their choice to you. You may create a menu to allow a recipient to opt out of certain types of messages, but you must include the option to stop all commercial messages from you. Make sure your spam filter doesn’t block these opt-out requests.

How Opt-Out Methods have Evolved

Since 2003, when the CAN-SPAM Act was passed, the methods for opting out of email campaigns have evolved to make it as easy as possible for consumers to unsubscribe from mailings they do not wish to receive. While early on, responding to the email with a word like ‘unsubscribe’ might have been a common opt-out mechanism, it wasn’t long before marketers adopted the ‘other internet-based mechanism’ approach, providing a simple link or URL within the email that would automatically record the email recipient as having opted out of future mailings. 

Many companies also took on the approach of providing a preference center, where email recipients could control the emails they receive from a company. So, while an option to unsubscribe from all marketing emails would be included, recipients might elect to receive certain campaigns or types of marketing messages, while opting out of others. These preference centers are now quite common and OPTIZMO clients can take advantage of this option in their own email compliance programs through SUPPRESS.

The Legal Disclaimer

Nothing in this text should be construed as legal advice. We highly recommend that you familiarize yourself with the various information sources regarding CAN-SPAM compliance on the FTC website. Additionally, you may choose to obtain professional legal advice regarding your company’s email compliance efforts, related to CAN-SPAM or other relevant regulations that impact email marketing.

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