There are a couple of topics very important to discuss when talking about internet marketing, and while people usually take firm sides in the debates on these topics, we want to discuss Email Marketing, Contact Form Marketing and Spam. There seems to be a misnomer about what exactly spam is.
So what is spam? And how does spam effect email and contact form marketing online?
Most people would define spam as any solicitation via email that is unsolicited, promoting a service or product offer in which the recipient did not “opt-in” to the mailing. However, this understanding is based more on perceptions of personal opinions and is not actually based on laws in the United States that govern rules for electronic messaging. The CAN-SPAM Act, is a law administered by the Federal Communications Commission that sets the rules for commercial emails and all forms of electronic messaging, establishing requirements for commercial messages, giving recipients the right to have you stop emailing them, and spells out tough penalties for violations of these laws. Despite misconceptions of this law generally, the CAN Spam Act is often referred to as the “I-CAN-SPAM-Act” because rather than forbidding companies or individuals from emailing non-opted in subscribers, it sets forth rules that allow for promotional messages to be sent without any prior consent of the recipient.
So what do the rules say?
The Spam act is very clear in their rules (which you can read in full here: https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/can-spam-act-compliance-guide-business ).
Simply stated these rules do not prohibit any one from messaging someone electronically without permission. The rules set guidelines such as the following.
- Don’t use false or misleading header information. Your “From,” “To,” “Reply-To,” and routing information – including the originating domain name and email address – must be accurate and identify the person or business who initiated the message.
- Don’t use deceptive subject lines. The subject line must accurately reflect the content of the message.
- Identify the message as an ad. The law gives you a lot of leeway in how to do this, but you must disclose clearly and conspicuously that your message is an advertisement.
- Tell recipients where you’re located. Your message must include your valid physical postal address. This can be your current street address, a post office box you’ve registered with the U.S. Postal Service, or a private mailbox you’ve registered with a commercial mail receiving agency established under Postal Service regulations.
- Tell recipients how to opt out of receiving future email from you. Your message must include a clear and conspicuous explanation of how the recipient can opt out of getting email from you in the future. Craft the notice in a way that’s easy for an ordinary person to recognize, read, and understand. Creative use of type size, color, and location can improve clarity. Give a return email address or another easy Internet-based way to allow people to communicate their choice to you. You may create a menu to allow a recipient to opt out of certain types of messages, but you must include the option to stop all commercial messages from you. Make sure your spam filter doesn’t block these opt-out requests.
- Honor opt-out requests promptly. Any opt-out mechanism you offer must be able to process opt-out requests for at least 30 days after you send your message. You must honor a recipient’s opt-out request within 10 business days. You can’t charge a fee, require the recipient to give you any personally identifying information beyond an email address, or make the recipient take any step other than sending a reply email or visiting a single page on an Internet website as a condition for honoring an opt-out request. Once people have told you they don’t want to receive more messages from you, you can’t sell or transfer their email addresses, even in the form of a mailing list. The only exception is that you may transfer the addresses to a company you’ve hired to help you comply with the CAN-SPAM Act.
- Monitor what others are doing on your behalf. The law makes clear that even if you hire another company to handle your email marketing, you can’t contract away your legal responsibility to comply with the law. Both the company whose product is promoted in the message and the company that actually sends the message may be held legally responsible.
Does the can spam act apply to contact form marketing?
Yes it does. It governs any form of electronic messaging. However, there are some nuances in the law between email and contact form marketing. Contact form marketing uses a direct technique of going to a business’ online site and contacting them on a publicly available form they have placed online requesting people to contact them. Since the website controls the information that they are asking from the person submitting the form, things that are required in emails such as address, location etc. are not necessary since the recipient is in charge and control of what information they want from people contacting them.
Now in regard to the contact form there doesn’t need to be a way to opt out….they have an open, very public and inviting line of communication inviting people to contact them on their website, so there is no need to have an initial option to opt out (though many people actually make statements in their submission) since the site is publicly inviting people to contact them. So simply put the rules that govern in the US are clear and can be simply stated like this:
Use your real info, don’t be misleading, be honest in your message and if someone asks you not to contact them again honor it. Its that simple.
We are not attorneys. The views expressed herein are opinions arrived at after thorough examination of the law and the consultation of our Lawyer. We encourage everyone if they have specific questions or concerns about the material covered in this article or your own marketing strategy, to consult an attorney of their own that can advise according to laws in your region, for your state and jurisdiction. Laws can vary from region to region and information contained in this article may become outdated and may no longer apply.