Are You Compliant With Email Laws?

Email marketing has proven time and time again to be a prosperous channel for engaging customers and increasing revenue. According to Econsultancy’s Email Marketing Best Practice Guide, ” … marketers still rate email as the best channel for return on investment after search engine optimization, with 66% of respondents rating email as ‘excellent’ or ‘good’. Only 7% say that email ROI is ‘poor’.”

Nevertheless, email marketing can be a tricky beast to tackle. There are many things that contribute to email marketing success, and I bet there are some things even you, an email marketing professional, may have not thought about. As email marketing continues to drive revenue and support customers throughout their time with your company, it is apparent that focusing on the individual customer will generate higher ROI. But most email marketers don’t factor in a very crucial step in the email strategy or campaign builds: email compliance.

Email Compliance

Your email program must be created specifically with customer rights and privacy laws in mind. Not factoring in all these laws can become very expensive. A single instance of not being compliant with all email laws, according to CAN-SPAM laws, can cost you upwards of $16,000 per email in violation. If you have an email send with 50,000 subscribers … well, I think you see where I am going with this.

This post is not intended to scare you or deter you from sending emails. It is simply to let you know that complying with the law must be part of your strategy when planning future email campaigns. All it takes is a little foresight and attention to detail.

This post is also not intended to be a comprehensive overview of the various laws and regulations which may be applicable to a particular email campaign. This post provides a summary of the U.S.’s CAN-SPAM Act. We recommend that you consult with an attorney or expert in email compliance in order to ensure compliance with applicable email laws and regulations.

Six Ways to Stay Compliant When Sending Emails

To help you be more successful with your email initiatives, please use the list below as a guide for complying with the CAN-SPAM Act.

Identify what type of message you are sending

The CAN-SPAM Act requires businesses to identify the purpose of their emails. In general, the law distinguishes between commercial and transactional emails. A commercial email tries to sell the reader a product while a transactional email tells the reader what they have already bought. The law is vague on how to communicate each type of message, so use your best judgement. In cases where the email contains both types of message, make it clear in the email which type of message is primary.

Write an appropriate subject line

As we saw with the first step, transparency is the name of the game. Consequently, your subject line cannot mislead your reader, and the subject line must clearly reflect the content matter in the email. If you are sending, for example, a commercial email to try to get the reader to buy your credit monitoring service, you should not use a subject line that reads, “Click now for FREE download!”

Keep your email headers transparent

Just as your subject line may not be misleading neither can your “from”, “to” and “reply-to” addresses. The master domain and envelope email addresses must accurately identify who is sending the message.

Develop a subscriber acquisition plan

You will need to have a clear and concise way of growing your subscriber list. Be able to show how you gather your subscriber data. This means do not purchase lists. Update your privacy policies and opt-in procedures to gather a list of true subscribers that are engaging with your brand. Determine what your business needs are, and apply them to your subscriber acquiring tactics. Besides helping you stay compliant, this will also go a long way in improving your deliverability.

Display your physical address in footer

A perhaps minor issue that can have a major impact in your compliance is your company’s actual location. The content in your email must include the postal address of who the message was sent from. The footer is an appropriate place for this information.

Provide a clear way to opt-out of future email sends

The email message must have an easy and clear way the subscriber can opt-out of future emails. All opt-out requests must be honored within 10 business days. Once your subscriber has opted-out of your list you are not allowed, by law, to ask for further details relating to that subscriber.


Incorporating these six actionable items into your everyday email efforts will go a long way to make sure you are staying compliant with with the U.S.’s CAN-SPAM Act. Happy sending!

Ben Meyer is the Email Campaign Coordinator at cleverbridge