FTC Issues Final Rules Defining CAN-SPAM

  |  December 17, 2004   |  Comments

The agency gets very specific regarding 'primary purpose.'

One year to the day after the original CAN-SPAM bill was signed into law, the Federal Trade Commission issued final regulations specifying what constitutes an email with "commercial primary purpose".

The ruling closely follows the text of the proposal released on August 13, with important new specifics that seek to dispel the ambiguity around determining the primary purpose of dual-use messages, said Catherine Harrington-McBride, staff attorney for the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection.

For single-use messages, either commercial or transactional relationship, the primary purpose is simple enough to determine. However, it is the criteria addressing dual-use messages that will most affect email marketers and advertisers.

First, emails containing both commercial and transactional relationship content are considered commercial if a recipient reasonably interpreting the subject line would likely conclude that the message contains commercial content. It would also be considered commercial if the email's transactional relationship content does not appear in whole or substantial part at the beginning of the body of the message.

Secondly, for emails that contain both commercial content and content that is neither commercial nor transactional or relationship, the primary purpose will be deemed commercial if a recipient reasonably interpreting the subject line or body of the message would likely conclude the primary purpose is commercial.

The key factors relevant to that interpretation include the placement of commercial content in whole or substantial part in the beginning of the body of the message; the proportion of the message dedicated to commercial content; and how color, graphics, type size, and style are used to highlight commercial content.

"The primary purpose criteria will enable businesses to understand their responsibilities under the CAN-SPAM Act," Harrington-McBride said. "It sets forth the criteria by which emailers can determine whether their messages fall within the commercial category."

Whereas the text of the initial CAN-SPAM law left important questions as to what qualifies as commercial intent open to debate, the new ruling is strikingly more detailed, said Elaine O'Gorman, vice president of Silverpop, an email marketing solutions provider.

"As for the text of the ruling, it's very clear," O'Gorman said. "I think it's the specificity of detail, of what portion of the email commercial content appears, whether it's subject line, or top of the body of the email message, that will really take email marketers by surprise."

On a practical level, adhering to the new regulations is likely to be simple for most businesses, according to Trevor Hughes, executive director of the E-mail Service Provider Coalition.

"While the new legal language is helpful, the fact remains that compliance with CAN-SPAM is not that painful," Hughes said. "For most companies that engage in email marketing, they probably won't have to change their existing practices too much."

ClickZ Live New York What's New for 2015?
You spoke, we listened! ClickZ Live New York (Mar 30-Apr 1) is back with a brand new streamlined agenda. Don't miss the latest digital marketing tips, tricks and tools that will make you re-think your strategy and revolutionize your marketing campaigns. Super Saver Rates are available now. Register today!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

COMMENTSCommenting policy

comments powered by Disqus

ClickZ Today is our #1 newsletter.
Get a daily dose of digital marketing.

COMMENTS

UPCOMING EVENTS

UPCOMING TRAINING

Featured White Papers

Google My Business Listings Demystified

Google My Business Listings Demystified
To help brands control how they appear online, Google has developed a new offering: Google My Business Locations. This whitepaper helps marketers understand how to use this powerful new tool.

5 Ways to Personalize Beyond the Subject Line

5 Ways to Personalize Beyond the Subject Line
82 percent of shoppers say they would buy more items from a brand if the emails they sent were more personalized. This white paper offer five tactics that will personalize your email beyond the subject line and drive real business growth.

WEBINARS

    Information currently unavailable

Jobs

    • Lead Generation Specialist
      Lead Generation Specialist (The Oxford Club) - BaltimoreThe Oxford Club is seeking a talented writer/marketer to join our growing email lead-generation...
    • Health Marketing Editor
      Health Marketing Editor (Agora Inc.) - BaltimoreCome flex your intellectual muscle as part of Agora, Inc’s (http://agora-inc.com/) legal team...
    • Technical Business Analyst
      Technical Business Analyst (OmniVista Health) - BaltimoreOmniVista Health is looking to add a Technical Business Analyst to our expanding team...