Unsubscribe Compliance Rules for Email Senders

Oh no, it’s you again. In the past month, didn’t I unsubscribe from your newsletter at least 3 times.  What a pain: you keep coming back.  I really did follow the unsubscribe instructions that were buried in your newsletter:  I even received a confirmation that said I was off your list and here you are again, in my in-box!  This time I have permanently filtered all messages from your domain to my junk folder.  And please be reassured that I never will read or visit anything concerning your products or services again.

Better yet, I’m going to report you to the FTC for violation of the CAN SPAM Act, and with social media, pester me again and you will find out what the power of social media really means.

Have you felt that way – just one too many SPAM messages in the in-box.  Who is sending that stuff anyway?

Like yourself, the proficient email marketer knows that you actually opted-in to their newsletter but they remove your email address when you unsubscribe – and some remove you with no questions asked.  And then there’s the unscrupulous email marketer who keeps putting you back on their list to boost up their subscription numbers – he or she may reason, why go through the trouble to reengage these people, it’s just easier to add them back on the list.

Both types of marketers, the proficient and unscrupulous, are subject to the rules and regulations spelled out in the CAN SPAM Act of 2003  along with the additional guidelines and extra rule changes imposed by the FTC in 2008.

The 2003 CAN SPAM Act with the FTC’s update provides ESPs and list owners the definitions and procedures for sending commercial electronic mail messages.  The rules cover Content compliance, Sending behavior compliance, and the topic of today’s discussion: Unsubscribe compliance.   Keep in mind the Government did not publish a list of the best unsubscribe practices they only published Unsubscribe compliance rules.

According to the CAN SPAM Act:

All senders of commercial email must provide a working opt-out mechanism for email recipients to unsubscribe from: a functioning URL or hyper link.  The actual opt-out process can be as straight forward as sending a reply with the word “remove” in the subject line to a more complicated procedure where the link goes to a landing page (preference page) with subscriber options such as changing the frequency of emails.

To recap, the online options to leave a list are:

  1. Reply to an email with one word in the subject line: i.e. “remove” or “unsubscribe”
  2. One-click to a landing page and enter their email address.
  3. A customized URL that has your email address coded in the link.  Click to unsubscribe and you receive an immediate confirmation.
  4. Click to a preference page or email management page.  Subscribers can update their subscription information and opt-in or opt-out if the sender is offering more than one newsletter.  The sender cannot require the recipient to give them any personal information or take, any other steps other than sending a reply or visiting a website opt-out page.
  5. No fees can be charged to unsubscribe.

In addition:

The unsubscribed address cannot be sold or transferred, unless of course it’s company that you engaged to help you comply with the CAN SPAM Act.

The sender must honor an opt-out request within 10 business days – (hmm does that gives a company more days to SPAM you.)

AND unsubscribe online isn’t the only option.  The CAN SPAM Act requires the sender to have a process in place to complete unsubscribe requests (within 10 days) received from different communications channels.  (USPS mail, telephone and so forth.)

stop spam


Those are the Unsubscribe compliance rules, check back here my list of The Unsubscribe Best Practices or join our blog list and never miss a new Blog Entry.

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