Thriving under the New Federal Email Law
Well, New Year’s Day has come and gone for 2004, leaving us with an email environment far different than the one we left back in ’03. In case you’ve been sleeping, you may not know that we now live under a new federal law that governs commercial email. The CAN-SPA*M Act of 2003, which gives one standard to follow rather than 37 state standards, was signed into law by President Bush in December. Sure, the early results show that this law might not be doing much to curb the spa*m problem; however, it has certainly had an impact on legitimate businesses attempting to comply.
While the requirements of the Act seem fairly basic, the question of “how to implement changes” has become the challenge for many organizations—especially those who do not realize that they are at risk. Essentially, any organization sending outbound email in any form is at risk of running afoul of the law, and must protect itself by becoming familiar with its specific requirements.
That’s why ExactTarget, in partnership with the law firm Ice Miller, has put together a whitepaper focused on helping organizations understand not only what is mandated under the new law, but also the recommended courses of action to take in order to ensure compliance at all levels.
Concerned about your own organization’s compliance? Good. Accepting the fact you have a problem is the first step. :-)
Many of the Act’s requirements seem fairly innocuous and easy to follow at first glance—such as including a valid physical postal address in each email or including a valid opt-out mechanism in each commercial email. However, these requirements should lead you to ask a number of complex questions about your organization:
Is my organization technically prepared to manage and maintain not just one, but potentially several “suppression” lists of email recipients who don’t want to receive commercial email?
How do we communicate the importance of commercial email compliance at our organization? How do we enforce it?
Do we have the technological capability and capacity to log and maintain a master list and several more specific suppression lists?
Can my organization comply with an opt-out request within the ten (10) business days as required by the law?
Can database updates be communicated to all locations of the company’s enterprise that use this data quickly enough to prevent another area of the company from contacting an unsubscribed user after 10 days have passed?
Therefore, it is the “implementation” of practices necessary to follow the law that become a challenge for many companies, especially those with several disparate data sources, decentralized marketing programs, or multiple divisions or processes.
One option for managing email unsubscribes in a central location would be outsourcing email communications to a single provider. An Email Service Provider (ESP), such as ExactTarget, has the ability to manage data in a centralized and secure location, thus providing many advantages over managing the data across multiple divisions in your own organization.
Already know all there is to know about the law? Don’t fret. Our whitepaper provides insight beyond the legal implications of commercial email and also suggests key steps organizations must take to comply with the email processing industry's own procedures. Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) and anti-spam action groups set the bar much higher than the new Federal standard, and failure to follow the unwritten ethics of the email receiving and filtering community can negatively impact the effectiveness of commercial email and even have negative repercussions on a company’s brand. Take for an example a CEO who can’t get email to members of his board, his investors, or even his grandmother because his company’s email system has been blacklisted. Seem like a wise tale? It’s not. The filtering of legitimate email is now an everyday occurrence. It’s just that many companies aren’t aware their emails are blocked or they don’t know what to do about it.
Here’s something your organization shouldn’t forget: the anti-spam community and ISP’s have long been against anything but email marketing where affirmative consent (opt-in) exists. Yahoo, for example, reportedly filters over 3 billion spam messages every day (source: ISP CON), and the statistics are very similar at other ISP’s. Spam prevention is not a game, but rather an economic challenge for ISP’s, and a worthy cause for millions of subscribers whose inboxes are now flooded with fraudulent emails, bogus health claims, and pornography. Extending your organization’s email plans beyond legal compliance to permission marketing is the only way to avoid email filtering.
A look forward
2004 is now the year of the CAN-SPAM Act. Now more than ever, organizations need to be aware of both the practical and legal aspects of sending commercial email. The requirements of the Act will have significant impact on unwary organizations or those that fail to adjust internal procedures appropriately. However, organizations that take the proper steps to overcome challenges and risks will certainly reap the rewards that email has to provide.