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CAN SPAM ACT - What Does it All Mean?

The Federal CAN SPAM Act “S.877” has been in effect for a little more than two months. The purpose of this legislation was to reduce the amount of spam reaching our inboxes by setting forth national standards for the use and transmission of commercial email. Has the CAN SPAM Act helped to ‘can’ spam? Well, there’s no shortage of opinions on this topic, and the debate rages on.

Whether or not the CAN-SPAM Act has gone far enough to reduce inbox clutter or frighten the spammers, almost everyone agrees that it has left many legitimate marketers confused and concerned. And for good reason. Since the inception of this legislation, the leading technology, web service and Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) have been in a race to come up with their own ‘solutions’ to the spam problem. You can’t pick up an article on spam without reading about filtering software, authentication and detection programs, desktop spam blockers, suppression lists, white lists, black lists, certifications and digital signatures.

Earlier this month, Microsoft unveiled technical specifications for an email authentication system similar to caller ID for email. Rather than using simple filtering technology, this system would seek to identify ‘good’ email, and segregate everything else. Many companies have already experienced the frustration of having their legitimate email messages to their clients/customers blocked by overeager filtering technology, and overzealous IT departments.

At the same time, Internet and marketing firms are lobbying for the adoption of a system for ranking mailers based on reputation. Lawyers and consultants are working to convince businesses to retain them to insure spam compliance, and online publishers have flooded the markets with books on ‘dealing with CAN-SPAM’. So, where does that leave the legitimate marketer? Is it time to abandon email as a marketing and communications tool? The answer is a resounding no.

Email is still one of the most effective, reliable and cost efficient manners to communicate with current customers and prospects. Remember, the legislation was enacted to reduce spam, penalize spammers, and set forth best practices for email marketing. It was not intended to stop legitimate marketers from using email to communicate with their willing audience. Unfortunately, the immediate result of the legislation is that marketers have to work harder and smarter to ensure that their messages are successfully delivered to their intended audience. And, while marketers are working harder, spammers continue to find unorthodox ways of getting their messages delivered.

It’s time to take the bull by the horns. Legitimate marketers can remain ‘spam compliant’ by following common sense rules. Be honest. Don’t try to hide or disguise who you are, or the purpose, subject or content of your message. Take people off your list immediately when they opt out. Even one message arriving after an opt-out may be enough for you to be reported as a spammer. Address complaints promptly and professionally. Remember, anyone even suspecting you of spamming them, won’t hesitate to report you to the ISP, and most ISPs have made spam reporting as simple as clicking a button.

If you are concerned about whether your company has the time or human resources necessary to manage the various aspects of CAN-SPAM compliance, it may be worth considering an outside email service provider. An email service provider’s lifeblood is in maintaining a relationship with the ISPs to insure that their clients’ email messages aren’t filtered, blocked or blacklisted. In addition, a reputable email service provider will routinely monitor their customers’ messages for compliance, provide automatic opt-outs and suppressions, and handle complaints promptly. The costs of using an email service provider should be weighed against the time and resources required by your company’s IT department to address these types of ongoing data management issues.

The email landscape will undoubtedly continue to evolve in the months and years to come based on this newly enacted legislation, and the response of consumers and ISP’s. Legitimate marketers will have to work harder to insure deliverability, high open rates, and less blocking. Gold Lasso is committed to staying ahead of email marketing trends, and will continue to make the necessary changes to our system and procedures to help our clients remain in full compliance with email standards and laws.

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