2003 federal law covers deceptive email practices

All Illinois businesses may want to be aware of the CAN-SPAM Act that was passed by Congress in 2003. This rule covers all commercial messages sent through email. It gives recipients the right to stop receiving emails, and it carries stiff penalties for noncompliance.

Administered by the Federal Trade Commission, it broadly covers 'commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service". For starters, the email must clearly identify from whom the email is coming. Second, the subject line cannot be misleading, and it must state the content of the body of the message. Third, the message must clearly indicate that it is an advertisement.

Another requirement imposed on senders of the email is an indication of the company's location. This can be in the form of a valid physical address or a PO Box issued by the United States Postal Service or a private mailbox service under Postal Service regulations. A clearly identified way for recipients to respond to the sender that they are not interested in receiving additional emails is also a requirement. In addition, the regulation imposes strict deadlines on the sender to comply with those requests.

The penalty for not following the regulations of the CAN-SPAM Act can be up to $16,000 per email, so the costs can add up to large sums rather quickly. A new business that plans to use email as part of its overall marketing plan to reach out to new customers may want to ensure that they are compliant with this business law. Consulting with an attorney may help a business develop complete understanding of the law and help in establishing controls within the organization to ensure adherence by all employees.

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