What Is CAN-SPAM & What Does It Mean for Digital Marketing?

The CAN-SPAM Act (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing Act) of 2003 established federal standards for the sending of commercial emails. Its main purpose was to give individuals more protection from spam, phishing, and other unwanted email messaging.

It’s incredibly important that businesses closely follow the rules set forth by the CAN-SPAM act if they want to avoid possible FTC fines. 


The CAN-SPAM Act is a piece of federal legislation that regulates how businesses send commercial messages to individuals. This legislation was conceived in direct response to the growing number of public complaints over spam emails. The law is focused on commercial mail, and does not include transactional and relationship messages.

Primarily, CAN-SPAM gives recipients the right to force a business to stop emailing them, and establishes penalties for businesses that ignore the requests. It also requires messaging to be clear and punishes misleading or unwanted communications.

How Can You Be CAN-SPAM Compliant?

There are several things you need to include in your marketing emails in order for them to be compliant with CAN-SPAM’s regulations. 

For starters, each email must clearly indicate who the message is from. Use clear “from”, “to”, and “reply to” language and avoid using deceptive subject lines that may obscure the true intention or meaning of your message. Make sure to include your physical mailing/postal address in every email you send out.

Additionally, each email must provide a clear and obvious way to unsubscribe or opt-out of further communication. Once someone has requested to unsubscribe, they must be removed from your email list within 10 days. 

Don’t make it hard to unsubscribe from emails, and don’t attempt to charge an unsubscribe fee or to ask the individual for any kind of personal information apart from their email address. You also cannot make an individual have to take extensive steps apart from simply replying to an email or visiting a page in order to unsubscribe. Try to make it as easy as possible for people to unsubscribe in order to make sure that you are remaining compliant with CAN-SPAM. 

Lastly, don’t sell or transfer any email addresses to any other email lists. Careful when working or sharing data with third-party affiliates as their email list may not be compliant with CAN-SPAM regulations!

If you would like more information or to read up on the exact details of CAN-SPAM, check out the FTC’s official website

What Are The Penalties For Failing To Comply?

Businesses can suffer severe financial penalties for failing to follow the CAN-SPAM act. Each and every single email that violates the CAN-SPAM act can result in a fine of $16,000. Failing to properly manage your entire email list could result in astronomical fines!

You can still create great emails to send to your clients—you just have to make sure that you have a good list and that you abide by the law’s guidelines. 

To learn more about digital marketing compliance, check out our webinar.