Commercial email is one of the most significant -- if not the most significant -- marketing tool of small ecommerce websites. For this reason, it's a good idea to stay current with the CAN-SPAM Act's email rules. In May, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) approved several new rules for purposes of clarifying CAN-SPAM's requirements. Here's an easy-to-read summary of these important developments that affect all ecommerce websites. Multiple Senders And Email Marketing Campaigns One issue under CAN-SPAM was whether all parties in a multi-party email would be required to comply with CAN-SPAM.
Under the new rules, multiple parties participating in a single commercial email may designate a single party as the "sender", provided that the designated party: * meets the definition of a "sender"; * is the only party designated in the "from" line; and * fully complies with the requirements of the CAN-SPAM Act. By focusing on the "from" line, the new rule represents a relatively pragmatic solution that is generally favorable to most joint, commercial email campaigns. However, one important trap for the unwary is that if the designated sender does not comply with CAN-SPAM (i.
e. identifying the email as an ad or solicitation, including a physical or post office address, and handling opt-outs), all marketers in the email message will be held liable as senders. Opt-Out Requirements The new rules streamlined the opt-out process for commercial email. The new rules make it clear that email marketers can not require opt-outs: * to pay a fee for a right to opt-out"; * to provide personally identifiable information other than an email address; and * to take any steps other than visiting a web page or sending a reply email. In addition, sales pitches prior to honoring an opt-out request are clearly unacceptable. "Send-To-A-Friend" "Send-to-a-friend" emails are fairly common, especially with email newsletters.
The FTC made an important distinction between send-to-a-friend emails where the marketer merely request the recipient to send to a friend and those emails where any form of consideration is offered -- such as money, awards, prizes, coupons, or discounts). If any form of consideration is offered (the amount is irrelevant), then the seller who requested the forwarding of the email must comply with CAN-SPAM requirements. If no consideration is offered, then the seller need not comply with CAN-SPAM; however, it's recommended that the seller comply in any event. Conclusion The new rules were the final result of approximately 3 years of consideration of the issues.
Many of the suggestions along the way were more burdensome on commercial emailers. However, the prevailing view apparently was that the final rules provide clear guidance so that the reputable email marketers would not be unreasonably restricted.
Chip Cooper is a leading intellectual property, software, and Internet attorney who advises software and ecommerce businesses nationwide. Chip's 25+ years of experience include 20 years as Adjunct Professor of Computer Law at Wake Forest University School of Law. Visit Chip's http://www.digicontracts.com site and download his FREE newsletter, Website Law Alert, and also learn about his "Do-It-Myself" and "Do-It-For-Me" service options.