You may not be aware that emails are expected to follow a set of rules—that these rules are actual laws. They are pretty strict, limiting what you can and cannot do. They also require your email to meet information requirements.

The CAN-SPAM Act is a law that sets the rules for commercial email, establishes the requirements for commercial messages, and gives recipients the right to have you stop emailing them. It spells out the penalties for violating these requirements.

The law covers all commercial messages. Commercial messages is defined as “any electronic mail message the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service.” 

This law applies to both business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) email. The nature of your business does not matter. For-profit and not-for-profit businesses and organizations have to comply with the CAN-SPAM Act alike.

Each separate email violating the CAN-SPAM Act is subject to penalties of up to $50,120. 

But you can relax. Following the law is easy. Here is a checklist to help you get started.

  • Make sure your “From,” “To,” “Reply-To,” and routing information accurately identifies the person or business or organization sending the message. Include the originating domain name and email address.

  • Make sure your subject line accurately reflects what is inside the email.

  • Make it clear early on that your message is an advertisement or promotion.

  • Make sure your message includes your valid physical postal address.

  • Make sure your message includes a clear explanation of how the recipient can opt out of getting marketing emails from you in the future. It must be easy to recognize, read, and understand. This can be a return email address for manual list management or an internet-based way to communicate their choice to you. 

  • Make sure your spam filter doesn’t block opt-out requests.

Honor all opt-out requests promptly. You must honor an opt-out request within ten business days. You cannot charge them a fee or sell or transfer their email address. (Exception is transferring the address to a company you hired to help you comply with the CAN-SPAM Act.)

You’re responsible for your email marketing. Even if you hire someone to create and send messages for you, you can be held legally responsible for any non-compliance.

For more information, check out the CAN-SPAM Act: Compliance Guide for Business on the Federal Trade Commission website.


Written by Diana Cacy Hawkins of Espresso Shot Marketing using as a resource site. Diana Cacy helps businesses formulate improved marketing strategies for a stronger future.