in 2007, the seven-billionth can of SPAM® product was produced. Whoa. The US government must have known billions of spam would be distributed when they passed CAN-SPAM in 2003. Oh, wait, we aren’t talking about THAT Spam, are we? Nope.

CAN-SPAM (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing) is US federal legislation passed in 2003 that sets the rules and establishes requirements for commercial email. It also gives recipients the right to unsubscribe and outlines pretty harsh penalties for violations.

What does CAN-SPAM cover?

CAN-SPAM applies to any and all electronic mail messages whose primary purpose is a commercial advertisement or to promote a commercial product/service. This includes emails that promote content on commercial websites!

What are the penalties?

Each separate email in violation of CAN-SPAM is subject to penalties of up to $16,000. How big is your email list? Let’s say 16,000. 16,000 emails x $16,000 = NOPE.

How do I comply?

The FTC actually makes it pretty easy to comply. And really, it’s a lot of common sense. Visit their guide if you’d like more information: CAN-SPAM Act: A Compliance Guide for Business


  • Identify your message as advertisement clearly & conspicuously. Don’t include fine print that may confuse or contradicts your main content!
  • Provide a valid physical postal address in every email. P.O. Boxes are ok!
  • Provide a clear and obvious way to unsubscribe. You must honor that that request within 10 business days! Best practice: immediately.
  • Monitor your outsourced agencies. Did you outsource your email marketing campaigns to an outside agency? You are still legally on the hook to comply with CAN-SPAM.

Do Not:

  • Don’t use false or misleading header information. Your “From,” “To,” “Reply-To,” and routing information must always be accurate!
  • Don’t use deceptive subject lines. Again, don’t mislead your recipients.
  • Don’t make it hard for your users to opt out. Another reminder. Your email must include a clear explanation of how to unsubscribe, or opt out, of future emails. Do not charge a fee, or require any further steps for the recipient other than reply email or visiting a single website page.

As a reminder. This is NOT legal advice and shouldn’t be construed as such. Please consult with your own counsel for legal advice on how to interpret CAN-SPAM rules & regulations.