FTC Retains Current CAN-SPAM Rules

The Federal Trade Commission has voted to retain the current rules implementing the CAN-SPAM law, which regulates commercial email.

The anti-spam law requires companies that send marketing emails to offer opt-out links, and to honor opt-out requests within 10 days. The measure also says commercial emails must have accurate header and subject lines, identify themselves as ads, and include a physical address.

In June 2017, the FTC said it would review the implementing regulations and solicited comments from the public. The agency said Tuesday that it received 92 comments, which supported keeping the rule.

“After reviewing the comments, the Commission concluded that the Rule does benefit consumers and does not impose substantial economic burdens, and that no changes to the Rule were needed at this time,” the FTC said.

Among the commenters was the Data & Marketing Association (acquired last year by the Association of National Advertisers), which supported retaining the current regulations.

“The Internet-based economy has flourished under the existing CAN-SPAM regime, which allows for appropriate flexibility for both businesses and consumers while giving robust enforcement authority to state and federal law enforcement,” that organization wrote.

Not everyone who weighed in supported the status quo. The advocacy group Electronic Privacy Information Center asked the FTC to “take steps to make it easier for consumers to opt-out of being included in databases of third-party list providers.”

EPIC added: “In any revision to the rule, the FTC should require that consumers are able to easily opt-out of being included in such lists.”

The agency 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.

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