Well, after five long years, the Federal Trade Commission has taken another look at the CAN- SPAM Act of 2003, and approved four new rule provisions for the Act in a move to clarify it's requirements. According to this recent DM News Article:

The new provisions include the following:

  • An e-mail recipient cannot be required to pay a fee, provide information other than his or her e-mail address and opt-out preferences, or take any steps other than sending a reply e-mail message or visiting a single Internet Web page to opt out of receiving future e-mail from a sender.
  • The definition of “sender” was modified to make it easier to determine which of multiple parties advertising in a single e-mail message is responsible for complying with the Act's opt-out requirements.
  • A “sender” of commercial e-mail can include an accurately-registered post office box or private mailbox established under United States Postal Service regulations to satisfy the Act's requirement that a commercial e-mail display a “valid physical postal address.”
  • A definition of the term “person” was added to clarify that CAN-SPAM's obligations are not limited to natural persons.

In addition, the SBP accompanying the final rule also addresses CAN-SPAM's definition of “transactional or relationship message.”

It will also look at the length of time a sender of commercial e-mail has to honor an opt-out request, as well as the Commission's views on how CAN-SPAM applies to forward-to-friend e-mail marketing campaigns.

These seem like reasonable updates, and from our perspective, these additional clarifications definitely make sense . . . although I'm not completely sure about what a non-natural person is defined as, in comparison to a natural one. Are we talking about Hollywood here? : )

As we talk with our clients and colleagues across the industry, e-marketing is becoming the channel of choice. And from a consumer/business marketing preference perspective, it is often the preferred channel of delivery. It's unfortunate that Spam has become so wide-spread and obnoxious. However, with the development of better Spam filters, it is becoming easier to protect e-mail boxes from an onslaught of Spam and allow only those true e-marketing messages to get through (although some of ours get caught in those Spam filters which is a bit maddening).

All in all, I think the CAN-SPAM Act was necessary so that those who are Spammers can get fined when the FTC can catch them. And, it put up some barriers that more aggressive marketers must comply with to stay out of trouble.

As e-marketing continues to evolve as a preferred channel for direct marketers, it'll be interesting to see if the regulations lessen or become more restrictive. My bet is that they will become less restrictive as the focus shifts to new direct marketing channels like mobile marketing.

All in all, it'll be interesting to see how this evolves!