FTC To Review CAN-SPAM Rules

The Federal Trade Commission is gearing up to review rules implementing CAN-SPAM -- a 2003 law aimed at regulating commercial email.

“Regulations can be important tools in protecting consumers, but when they are outdated, excessive, or unnecessary, they can create significant burdens on the U.S. economy, with little benefit,” Acting Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen said in a statement announcing the new review.

The anti-spam law imposes several obligations on companies that send marketing emails, including requirements to offer opt-out links, and to honor opt-out requests within 10 days.

The FTC, which is tasked with crafting regulations, last updated CAN-SPAM's rules in 2008, when it tightened the opt-out requirements. At the time, the FTC said marketers can't require recipients who want to opt out to pay a fee, provide information other than an email address, or take steps beyond sending a reply message or visiting a single page.

Three years earlier, the FTC issued regulations that addressed whether an email was primary "commercial," and therefore subject to the restrictions. Those regulations provided that emails with a mix of commercial content and "transactional" or "relationship" messages -- like information about the status of an order -- would be considered commercial if consumers would reasonably interpret them that way.

The agency is now seeking comments about a variety of issues, including the regulations' economic impact, and whether they have been affected by tech developments of the last decade. The submission deadline is Aug. 31.

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