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A Comprehensive CAN-SPAM Act Compliance Guide for B2B Businesses

CAN SPAM Compliance Checklist for B2B email marketing

Table of Contents

You run a business, and you're looking for ways to make your marketing strategies effective, but you also want to avoid running afoul of the law. That's where the CAN-SPAM Act for your business comes in. 

It's a federal law that governs commercial emails and sets standards for their content and sending. In addition, it gives recipients the right to have you stop emailing them. 

This legislation aims to protect consumers from unwanted and misleading commercial messages.

Compliance with the CAN-SPAM Act is critical for businesses of all sizes. Non-compliance can result in significant fines and damage to your reputation. 

By understanding its requirements and taking steps to comply, you can ensure that your business stays on the right side of the law and that your email marketing efforts are as effective as possible.

What Is the CAN-SPAM Act?

So, what exactly is the CAN-SPAM Act for marketers? In simple terms, it's a set of rules that dictate how commercial emails should be sent. 

What Does the CAN-SPAM Act Regulate?

Any email that promotes a commercial entity's goods, services, or websites is considered commercial email and falls under the purview of the CAN-SPAM Act.

The Act's main goal is to protect consumers from deceptive and unwanted commercial emails and ensure that commercial email senders are transparent in their messaging.

The CAN-SPAM Act covers all commercial emails from the US and those sent to US residents. 

What Are the Four Main Provisions of the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003?

The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 has four main provisions:

  • Requirements for commercial email content: 
    The act requires that commercial emails include clear and conspicuous identification that the message is an advertisement and a valid physical postal address of the sender.
  • Opt-out provisions: 
    Commercial emails must include a functioning opt-out mechanism that allows recipients to unsubscribe from future messages easily.
  • Prohibition of deceptive subject lines: 
    Commercial emails must not contain deceptive or misleading subject lines that misrepresent the content of the message.
  • Enforcement and penalties: 
    The act provides for enforcement by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). It provides for civil penalties for violations, including fines of up to $43,792 for each separate email sent in violation of the act. 

The act also allows state attorneys general to bring an action on behalf of their residents.

In 2021, the FTC levied a massive $120 million fine against a single spam operation, which shows the consequences of non-compliance can be severe.

To Who Does the CAN-SPAM Act Apply?

What types of emails are prohibited by the CAN-SPAM Act for marketers? 

Well, the CAN-SPAM Act applies to any business that sends commercial emails, regardless of its size or location. 

The CAN-SPAM Act applies to you if your business sends emails promoting or advertising your goods, services, or websites.

However, there are certain eligibility criteria that determine whether a business falls under the purview of the CAN-SPAM Act. 

For example, if your business sends messages, such as account updates or confirmations of purchase, it may be exempt from the provisions of the CAN-SPAM Act.

Again, there are certain exclusions to the CAN-SPAM Act. For example, the provisions of the act exclude emails from political organizations, charities, or religious organizations.

Additionally, transactional emails, also known as "relationship" emails, are not exempt from the CAN-SPAM Act. Transactional emails are defined as emails that are necessary to facilitate, complete or confirm a transaction that the recipient previously agreed to. 

These types of emails are still subject to the provisions of the CAN-SPAM Act, including the requirement for accurate header information, an opt-out mechanism, and compliance with opt-out requests. 

However, transactional emails are given a lower priority than commercial emails and are subject to fewer content requirements. 

Understanding the difference between transactional and commercial emails is important to ensure compliance with the CAN-SPAM Act.

You should also know whether you are eligible or excluded from the CAN-SPAM Act to ensure that your email marketing campaigns comply with the law. 

CAN-SPAM Laws for Email Marketing Campaigns

As a marketer, it's easy to ensure CAN-SPAM compliance in your email campaigns. Here's what you need to keep in mind:

Content Compliance

Make sure the sender information in your "From," "To," and routing data accurately identifies you or your business as the sender.

  • Don't send emails with false header information.
  • Avoid misleading subject lines that make your email appear scam or spam. For example, if the email contains sexually-oriented information, you need to label it as "SEXUALLY-EXPLICIT" in the first part of the subject line.
  • Identify the email as an advertisement. The CAN SPAM law requires you to identify your email as an advertisement but gives you leeway in how you do this.

Unsubscribe Compliance

  • Include a prominent and visible unsubscribe option in every email you send.
  • The unsubscribe option must be accessible for at least 30 days after you send your email.
  • If a reader opts out, promptly honor their request.

Sender Behavior Compliance

  • Include your valid physical or postal address in your emails.
  • Even if you hire a company to handle your email marketing, it's your legal responsibility to ensure compliance with the law. Therefore, monitor their actions periodically to avoid any potential legal issues.

CAN SPAM Act Requirements

As a business, you have certain obligations under the CAN-SPAM Act when it comes to sending commercial emails. These obligations are designed to protect consumers from deceptive and unwanted emails and to ensure that you are transparent in your messaging.

The CAN-SPAM Act sets specific requirements for the content of commercial emails, such as accurate header information and subject lines and an opt-out mechanism that allows recipients to unsubscribe from future emails. 

Additionally, commercial emails must clearly identify the sender and include a physical postal address.

The opt-out provisions of the CAN-SPAM Act are particularly important, as they allow recipients to opt out of receiving future emails from your business. 

You must honor opt-out requests within 10 business days, and you cannot charge a fee, require any information other than the recipient's email address and opt-out request, or make the opt-out process difficult.

How to Ensure Compliance with the CAN-SPAM Act

By following best practices and avoiding common compliance pitfalls, you can ensure that your emails are in compliance with the law and that your reputation remains intact.

CAN SPAM Compliance Checklist

Here are some best practices that can help you ensure compliance with the CAN-SPAM Act:

  • Accurately identify yourself and your business in commercial emails.
  • Use clear and non-deceptive subject lines.
  • Provide an opt-out mechanism that allows recipients to unsubscribe from future emails.
  • Honor opt-out requests promptly.
  • Clearly and accurately identify the sender in commercial emails.

To avoid common compliance pitfalls, be sure to:

  • Keep records of all opt-out requests for at least 30 days.
  • Avoid using false or misleading header information.
  • Do not use deceptive subject lines.
  • Do not hide the sender's identity.
  • Do not send emails after an opt-out request has been received.

Finally, it's important to note that the CAN-SPAM Act requires businesses to retain records of commercial emails for a minimum of 12 months. This includes records of all opt-out requests, which must be honored for at least 30 days.

What Information Is Not Required for CAN-SPAM Compliance in Emails

Under the CAN-SPAM Act, there are certain information requirements for commercial emails that must be met to ensure compliance. 

However, there is also certain information that is not required to be included in commercial emails. Here are some examples of information that is not required for CAN-SPAM compliance:

  • A physical postal address: Commercial emails are required to include the sender's valid postal address, but having a physical postal address is not necessary. A P.O. Box or private mailbox is sufficient.
  • A subject line: The CAN-SPAM Act does not require a specific subject line for commercial emails.
  • The inclusion of certain words or phrases: There is no requirement to include specific words or phrases in a commercial email's subject line or body to ensure CAN-SPAM compliance.
  • A disclaimer or notice: There is no requirement to include a disclaimer or notice in a commercial email to ensure CAN-SPAM compliance.

It is important to note that these examples do not cover all of the requirements of the CAN-SPAM Act. Therefore, businesses should consult the act and related guidelines for a complete understanding of the information requirements for commercial emails.

CAN-SPAM Compliance Examples

Here are a few examples of CAN-SPAM-compliant commercial emails:

  • A promotional email from a clothing retailer with the subject line "New Arrivals: Up to 50% off!" includes a clear opt-out mechanism, a valid postal address, and a disclaimer stating that it is an advertisement.
  • A newsletter from a software company with the subject line "Monthly Update: Latest Product Features" that includes a clear sender identification, a valid postal address, and a clear opt-out mechanism.
  • An email from a travel agency with the subject line "Exclusive Deals on Summer Vacations" that includes a clear sender identification, a valid postal address, a disclaimer stating that it is an advertisement, and a clear opt-out mechanism.

Penalties for Non-compliance

The consequences of CAN SPAM Act violation can be severe, with fines and penalties that can quickly add up. In addition to the financial consequences, non-compliance with the CAN-SPAM Act can also lead to legal action and damage to your business's reputation.

Under the CAN-SPAM Act, each email violation can result in fines of up to $43,792. For example, if you send 1,000 non-compliant emails, the total fine could be as much as $43,792,000.

In addition to fines, non-compliance with the CAN-SPAM Act can also result in legal action. Businesses that violate the act can be sued by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or by individual consumers. 

Litigation can be costly and time-consuming, and it can also harm your business's reputation.


One effective way to stay compliant is to make CAN-SPAM Act email marketing a vital part of your promotional strategy. This includes regularly training employees on the requirements of the act and incorporating best practices into your email processes.

Another important step is to regularly review your email content and opt-out mechanisms to ensure that they are up to date and in compliance with the CAN-SPAM Act. 

By staying informed and proactive about your compliance, you can ensure that your business's commercial emails are transparent, trustworthy, and well-received by your customers.

By taking these steps and prioritizing CAN-SPAM compliance, our team at Revnew can help build a strong reputation for your firm and maintain your business's success in the long term. Do you wish to know more about how we can assist you? We’re available within a click of a finger! Contact us today.

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