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CAN-SPAM changes are coming

Recently the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and their equivalent of Canada’s Task Force on Spam submitted proposed changes they recommend to the existing CAN-SPAM Act of 2003. In their Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) the FTC aims to reduce spam for email recipients and help email marketers and senders better understand the existing law.
Some proposed changes:
* Who is responsible for complying with CAN-SPAM? This change will clarify who the “sender” of a marketing email is and who must ensure CAN-SPAM compliance when you have multiple companies involved in a campaign or transmission. This will help when you have the marketer, agency and email service provider (ESP) working together.

* Opt-outs must be honoured within 3 days rather than the existing 10 days. For most this should not be an issue as those marketers using a trusted agency, ESP or email application have already automated this. Where there may be an issue is the case of a recipient needing to be “globally” unsubscribed. Making the change across multiple databases may take some time but is also something that can be automated.
* Who or “what” is a “person” with respect to CAN-SPAM? This term is used throughout the origianl CAN=SPAM Act of 2003 but is not clearly defined.
* Allowing senders to use a post office (P.O.) box to meet existing address requirement. In the past you had to use a physical address. Now, small businesses that only have a P.O. Box can more easily comply with CAN-SPAM.
One change that will not be seen is a loosening of the definition of “transactional relationship”. This means that just because an email recipient is (or has been) a customer you cannot automatically assume they are opted in to your marketing communications. This includes membership-based relationships. You will not be automatically entitled to send email to your member lists without explicit permission.
It seems the task force is working for both the senders and recipients. Although the recommendations are few and relatively brief, in short, they address a number of vague areas for marketers and make it increasingly more difficult for spammers.
My recommendation?
I believe all companies marketing to the US need to be familiar with CAN-SPAM and should use this as a minimum for all their email marketing. My earlier One Degree post Canadian Task Force on Spam Presents Final Report indicates Canada will also have a version of CAN-SPAM in the near future (Thinking out loud: I wonder why they don’t just copy it, make changes to the obvious weaknesses and errors, then “Canadianize” it!). If you are not already CAN-SPAM compliant you need to be planning for it just like you needed to plan for Canada’s privacy law (PIPEDA).
Agree? Disagree? Post a comment or email me at

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