KNOWLEDGE BASE Email Marketing In The US

The information on this page was current at the time it was published. Regulations, trends, statistics, and other information are constantly changing. While we strive to update our Knowledge Base, we strongly suggest you use these pages as a general guide and be sure to verify any regulations, statistics, guidelines, or other information that are important to your efforts.


Email Marketing In The United States


There are a number of federal and state laws and regulations that govern email marketing in the United States. Because they can different significantly state to state, you should make sure you are familiar with both the federal laws and regulations and those of the state or states in which you conduct business.


Federal Laws and Regulations

The primary federal law that regulates email marketing in the US is Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing (CAN-SPAM). CAN-SPAM establishes and sets out the rules for email marketing in the US.


To whom and what does CAN-SPAM apply?

CAN-SPAM applies to all commercial messages. The law defines “commercial message” as “any electronic mail message the primary purposes of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or services,” including emails that promote content on commercials websites. Furthermore, the law applies to B2C and B2B commercial messages.


How do I comply with CAN-SPAM?

Your primary email marketing obligations under CAN-SPAM are:

  • Do not use false or misleading header information. Your “From,” “To,” “Reply-To,” and routing information, including your originating domain name and email address, must be accurate and identify you, the person or company who initiated the message.

  • Do not use a deceptive subject line. Your subject line must accurately reflect the content of your message.

  • Identify your email as ad advertisement. CAN-SPAM gives you a lot of leeway in how you do this, but your are required to clearly and conspicuously disclose that your email is an advertisement.

  • Tell your recipients where you are located. Your email must include your valid physical postal address. This can be your current street address or a private PO Box.

  • Tell your recipients how to opt-out of receiving future email from you. Your email must include a clear and conspicuous explanation of how your recipient can opt-out of receiving future emails from you. Your notice should be easy for an ordinary person to find, read, and understand. Your opt-out mechanism must be easy for people to use. You are permitted to give your recipients the option to opt-out of certain types of emails, but you must allow them the option to opt-out of all future emails from you. Make sure your own spam filter does not prevent opt-out requests from coming through.

  • Honor opt-out requests promptly. The opt-out mechanism you offer must be able to process opt-out requests for at least 30 days after you send your email. You must honor the opt-out request within 10 days. You are prohibited from charging a fee, requiring your recipients to provide personally identifying information beyond an email address, or making the recipients take any step other than sending a reply email or visiting a single page on a website as a condition for honoring an opt-out request. Once a recipient has opted-out, you cannot sell or transfer his email address. The only exception to this prohibition is that you may transfer the addresses to a company you have hired to help you comply with CAN-SPAM.

  • Monitor what others are doing on your behalf. If you hire a company to handle your email marketing, you cannot contract away your legal responsibility to comply with the law. In this situation, you and the company that actually sends the email may be held legally responsible


What are the risks of noncompliance?

Violations of CAN-SPAM can be costly. For each separate email in violation of CAN-SPAM you face up to $50,120 fine, so non-compliance can be costly.


State Laws and Regulations

For detailed information on state specific email marketing laws, see the specific state laws below.

California: Restrictions on Unsolicited Commercial Email Advertisers Business and Professions Code Sections 17529-17529.9

Colorado: Commercial Electronic Mail Messages CRS 6-1-702.5

Illinois: Electronic Mail Act 815 Illinois Compiled Statutes Sections 511-1/905

Texas: Regulation of Certain Electronic Mail Business and Commerce Code Chapter 321


Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing

FTC’s The CAN-SPAM Act: A Compliance Guide for Businesses

KNOWLEDGE BASE Email Marketing In The US