Many consumers find unwanted email – which can include commercial messages known as spam – annoying and time-consuming. The Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing (CAN-SPAM) Act – addresses spam. This legislation is applicable to the US, i.e. to US based recipients regardless of where the email originated. Any marketeer or sales professional operating in the US therefore needs to be fully aware of the legislation and its implications.


The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, signed into law by President George W. Bush on December 16, 2003, establishes the United States' first national standards for the sending of commercial e-mail and requires the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to enforce its provisions.

Unwanted Email under the CAN-SPAM Act

The CAN-SPAM Act defines commercial messages as those that primarily advertise or promote a commercial product or service. The FCC’s ban does not cover “transactional or relationship” messages -- that is, notices to facilitate a transaction you have already agreed to -- for example, messages that provide information about your existing account or warranty information about a product you’ve purchased. The FCC’s ban also does not cover non-commercial messages, such as messages about candidates for public office. FCClogo

Federal rules regarding commercial email

  • Identification – The email must be clearly identified as a solicitation or advertisement for products or services.
  • Opt-Out – The email must provide easily-accessible, legitimate, and free ways for you to reject future messages from that sender.
  • Return Address – The email must contain legitimate return email addresses, as well as the sender’s postal address.

Giving Your Consent

For commercial email, your consent may be oral or written. Senders must tell you the name of the entity that will be sending the messages and, if different, the name of the entity advertising products or services. All commercial email messages sent to you after you’ve given your authorization must allow you to revoke your authorization, or “opt out” of receiving future messages. Senders have 10 days to honor requests to opt out.

What You Can Do to Stop Unwanted Spam

You can reduce the number of unwanted emails you receive by taking these precautions and actions:

  • Do not display your email address in public, so we recommend you hide or obfuscate your email such as with the webemailaprotector service.
  • Be careful about giving out your email address, or any other personal information. Make sure to read through and understand the entire transmitting form. Some websites allow you to opt out of receiving email from partners – but you may have to uncheck a preselected box if you want to do so. Make sure to check for a privacy policy when submitting your email address to any website. Find out if the policy allows the company to sell your information..
  • Do not respond to unwanted emails from questionable sources..
  • Use an email filter. Some service providers offer a tool that filters out potential spam or channels spam into a bulk email folder. You may also want to consider filtering capabilities when choosing an Internet service provider..
  • You may want to use two email addresses – one for personal messages and one for newsgroups and chat rooms. Also, consider using a disposable email address service that creates a separate email address that forwards messages to your permanent account. If one of the disposable addresses starts to receive spam, you can turn it off without affecting your permanent address..
  • Try using a longer and unique email address. Your choice of email addresses may affect the amount of spam that you receive. A common name like “mjones” may get more spam than a more unique name like “da110x110”..

Register for the WebEmailProtector service and secure your website email addresses here REGISTER page.

For further details on the CAN-SPAM ACT visit FCC CAN-SPAM guides.

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