OTA Submits CAN-SPAM Recommendations To FTC

The Online Trust Alliance (OTA), a non-profit and Internet Society (ISOC) initiative, submitted recommendations to the Federal Trade Commission on Wednesday to modify the United States’ anti-spam law.

First signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2003, CAN-SPAM (Controlling the Assault of Non Solicited Pornography And Marketing Act of 2003) established the first national standards for commercial email. It codified certain protections for consumers, such as requiring email senders to include a physical address with their email, honor opt-out requests within 10 days, and provide accurate header and subject line details. 

In July the FTC announced plans to review CAN-SPAM, and solicited industry feedback on the legislation by the end of August. A dozen leading email senders and retailers, email marketing companies and compliance specialists participated in submitting modifications, including Act-On Software, Yes Lifecycle Marketing, American Greetings, PeopleConnect, PostUp, and ValiMail. 

Although the OTA asserts that CAN-SPAM has slowed the growth of spam overall, the industry group believes that additional enhancements could modernize and clarify the legislation.

“Looking ahead it is imperative we take a global view, include embracing opt-in as prescribed by CASL and GDPR, and adopt email authentication and related best practices to maximize trust and confidence in the inbox,” states Craig Spiezle, the founder and chairman emeritus of the Online Trust Alliance. 

To conform with expected GDPR standards next year, the OTA recommends that email senders provide a single opt-out for multiple mail streams. It also recommends that CAN-SPAM extend opt-out requirements to high-volume business-to-business communication.

Some of OTA’s recommendations include additional clarity on the wording of the original legislation. 

For example, CAN-SPAM requires brands to have a “clear and conspicuous” unsubscribe option, but provides no guidance for or examples of what the placement, color, size, or terminology of opt-outs should look like. 

The OTA is also recommending that the FTC categorize “informational” messages as transactional in nature, since they are not promotional and relate to a service or product the consumer requested. Examples of such messages provided include alerts about certain news items, site activity and product updates. 

Additional recommendations include requiring opt-out links to be in text as opposed to images, so that opt-out links always render correctly, no matter what device they are being read on. 

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