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Why You Need to Pay Attention to the Sexy Subject of Email Compliance

While compliance may not be as sexy as personalization or automation, it’s just as important. Here’s what you need to know.

As most enterprise email marketers know, compliance is something that has always loomed in the background, and is a critical component of any email you send.

It’s easy to think of the email footer as your catch-all for legal compliance but are you overlooking some major considerations?

In this piece, we’ll cover the key regulations and rules that dominate email marketing across the United States and Canada. Tomorrow, we’ll be diving into Europe’s new GDPR law!

CAN-SPAM: What is it and what does it mean for you?

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The CAN-SPAM Act (officially known as the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003) is a U.S. law that governs commercial email and commercial messages.

As HubSpot put it: “That’s right, they looped us in with pornographers.”

CAN-SPAM sets the rules for commercial emails, gives recipients the right to stop a business from emailing them, and details the punishments for those businesses or entities that fail to comply.

It was introduced to protect consumers from unsolicited emails from businesses, whether they’re bulk spam emails or commercial emails.

According to the Federal Trade Commission: “It covers all commercial messages, which the law defines as “any electronic mail message the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service,” including email that promotes content on commercial websites. The law makes no exception for business-to-business email. That means all email – for example, a message to former customers announcing a new product line – must comply with the law.”

And you should comply, since the punishments can quickly add up. Under CAN-SPAM, each separate email that doesn’t comply with the law can warrant penalties of up to $41,484.

Thankfully, the rules are clear cut:

  • Identify your business in the header of your email i.e. the “from,” “reply to” and “routing information”
  • Subject lines should be clear and accurately depict the content of the email
  • Each business email should include language that states that it’s an ad e.g. “This advertisement was sent by (your business)” at the bottom of the email
  • Each email must include your valid physical postal address, this is normally placed in the footer
  • Unsubscribing or opting out of your emails should be easy, include an unsubscribe link in the footer of each email
  • Quickly remove those who wish to opt out from your email lists, if it doesn’t already happen automatically
  • If you’re using a third party or external agency to manage your email marketing, you still need to stay on top of them (as you’ll both be held legally responsible for any violations)

Once you’ve created email templates that follow these rules, make sure all your business units are using them. You don’t want one business unit to mistakenly violate CAN-SPAM, leaving your company open to hefty legal fines. Check out some solutions below if you’re not sure where to start.

CASL: What do you need to know?

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Do you communicate with Canadian consumers? Then you’ll need to understand CASL, officially known as the Canadian Anti-Spam Law.

Introduced in 2014, CASL covers any commercial electronic message sent from or to Canadian computers and devices. This includes emails, texts, instant messages, and social media communications.

CASL is much stricter than CAN-SPAM. It requires businesses to get explicit consent from a recipient before sending them an email.

Each recipient has to manually opt in and you must disclose what they’re signing up for (e.g. to receive a newsletter), your information (i.e. your business name, mailing address, and a contact phone number or email address), and that they can withdraw their content at any time.

“Implied” consent is permitted in three situations:

  • You have an active business relationship with the recipient (e.g. they bought a product from you in the past two years)
  • You’re a registered charity or political organization and the recipient has donated to, volunteered for, or attended a meeting with your organization
  • You’re sending a message to someone who conspicuously published their electronic contact information or voluntarily disclosed it to you without stating that they don’t want to receive communications from you

Once consent has been given and you’ve built your email list, it’s time to start sending out those emails! Keep in mind, you must include three main elements in each email:

  • Identify your business as the sender of the email, including any third parties that you’re sending it on behalf of
  • Contact information so any recipient can easily reach out to you
  • An unsubscribe link

Follow these rules to the letter and you’ll avoid some crippling Canadian charges, which could reach up to $781,311 in administrative penalties, up to $7.8 million in fees, and potential criminal sanctions.

How can you comply with these regulations?

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All of these regulations may seem overwhelming but there’s some simple steps you can take to ensure you comply.

Firstly, establish a compliance team (if you don’t already have one) and make sure the entire marketing team is involved and informed.

Review your current email marketing templates and compare them to all the regulations required under CAN-SPAM and CASL (if you’re communicating with our lovely northern neighbors).

Audit your current email lists and ensure that any Canadian consumers have given either explicit consent or implied consent (and keep a record).

Implement strict internal rules for building emails and communicating with customers. Stensul’s platform allows you to standardize footers to ensure all the required legal information is included in every email.

With your unique email designs and brand guidelines pre-configured into the stensul platform, any authorized user can utilize our uncomplicated and error-proof interface to craft original, legally compliant emails in minutes, without having to rely on designers or developers.

Get your personalized demo today to ensure your email campaigns stay on the right side of these regulations.


Disclaimer: This article is provided as a resource, it doesn’t constitute legal guidance. Contact your attorney for legal advice on how to interpret CAN-SPAM and CASL.


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