Legal Mass Email

What Is Spam?

E-mail that is:

  • sent in bulk
  • has identical or nearly identical messages and
  • is not solicited by the user

Mass email not solicited by the user is one type of e-mail spam, and is known by the acronym UBE for Unsolicited Bulk Email. When, in addition, the bulk e-mail is commercial, it is known as UCE for Unsolicited Commercial Email.

Email spam has grown over time and has created a strong negative reaction in many Internet users. Responses include the creation of CAUCE (Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email), which is a non-profit advocacy group that tries to use legislation to reduce mass email that is UCE and the oversight of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

What’s the Difference Between UCE and Snail Mail Ads?

A key difference between UCE that comes in mass email to you and those advertising fliers that arrive with the so-called snail mail is that UCE can be illegal. On the one hand, this is because it violates the Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) of nearly all ISPs (Internet Service Providers), though ISPs reactions vary from doing nothing to terminating spammers accounts. But besides that, UCE also must follow the guidelines of the 2003 legislation referred to as the CAN-SPAM Act.

CAN-SPAM Guidelines

The CAN-SPAM Act  of 2003 (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act) enacted some important requirements for senders of commercial mass email and sets out penalties for violations, while giving consumers the right to request that spam stop. The main requirements are as follows:

  • Header information in mass emails must be accurate, including the “From” the “To” and the routing information
  • Subject lines must reflect the actual content of the mass e-mail and are not allowed to be misleading or deceptive
  • Opt-out options must be available in every case of mass email, either through a return address or through an internet-based response system. Moreover, whichever method you use must allow for responses 30 days after the e-mail it is sent. Upon receiving an opt-out message, you have 10 business days to stop sending mass e-mail to the e-mail address in question.
  • Idenfication as a commercial message must be included, as well as the sender’s physical postal address.

In addition, the following practices are prohibited:

  • harvesting addresses from websites on which the collection of e-mail addresses is forbidden
  • dictionary attacks that create email addresses by permutation
  • scripts or other automated registration of multiple accounts for sending commercial mass email
  • relaying email via a computer or network without permission

Avoiding those pitfalls, which many merchants have no intention of using, places you in a position to legally use mass email advertising to its full advantage as part of your marketing repertoire. To read about the advantages of using opt-in e-mail, see the article “Opt-in Email Advantage.”