Going Postal

One of the provisions of the CAN-SPAM Act is the requirement that all marketing emails include an actual working postal address somewhere in the email body so that recipients can write to have their names removed from the marketer's email lists. To a certain degree, this provision is a bit quaint - a remnant from a by gone era. It is a little like demanding that all new TVs have a UHF channel selector. Who in the age of the Internet is going to write a letter to an email marketer instead of clicking on the unsubscribe link?

On the other hand, including a postal address in an email can provide a degree of comfort in the age of spammers. It tells the recipient: "I'm not some sort of off-shore spammer. See, here is my address." It also has a practical application in that it is a clear indication whether an email is compliant or not with the new rules. If there is no street address listed, you are non-compliant.

According to a number of sources I've checked with, all promotional messages must include this postal address, no exemptions. (However, I would advise all organizations to check with their legal counsel about this: I'm no lawyer). And, as Andy Sernovitch, CEO of Gaspedal Ventures, told me: Whether it is part of the law or not, it's good marketing practice.



That being the case, I decided to check emails that have arrived in our CETS tracking software since Jan. 1 to see who has included a postal address and who has not. The answers are a little surprising:

First the good news: nearly 90 percent of the emails that we have received have been compliant. In fact many of the lists we track were compliant with this aspect of the law before Jan. 1. It should be pointed out that the emails we track are 100 percent opt-in, as opposed to your typical inbox that spam sent to non-opt in harvested email addresses.

Third-Party Lists: As I mentioned nearly all the third-party lists were compliant as far as including a postal address was concerned. The main exception is a list from a company called V9 Networks, based in Las Vegas. Advertisers on this list include Discover Ink (an inkjet cartridge refiller). According to the DiscoverInk web site: " will not tolerate spamming and has a zero tolerance policy regarding the transmission of spam e- mail. requires that all of our affiliates abide by our Anti- Spam policy and they expressly warrant that they will not engage in spamming."

Which brings up an interesting point. Many of the CPC and CPL players in the space who rely on list brokers do not necessarily have a way of monitoring their email blasts. They may be totally unaware of who is sending out their marketing message and if they are compliant with the new laws or not. Unfortunately, according to my understanding of the new laws, they can still be held liable for any infractions of the law undertaken by an unknown affiliate.

Other advertisers on the V9 Networks list are IBM ViaVoice (a speech recognition software) and Pay Per View Filter, which sells a product to get free premium "pay-per-view cable channels.

House Lists: The cosmetics company Redken and the music division of Sony were just some of the bigger brands that sent marketing messages without a valid postal address since the law went into effect. On Jan. 16 Redken sent a B2B message to resellers promoting a product called "Solid Water 06." Redken does include a partial address: "5th Ave, NYC" and maybe they think this is enough, like Miracle on 34th Street when letters arrived at the courthouse simply addressed to "Santa."

Sony's Epic records has sent out a variety of messages promoting the band Fuel, Tenacious D, and Mudvayne, all sans postal address. Not to be out "Dun," Dun and Bradstreet sent out a "Small Business Solutions" marketing message also without a postal address. Choice brands Hotels (which includes Comfort Inn and Clarion) made the "choice" not to include a postal address in a recent membership rewards promotional note. Even presidential candidate Wesley Clark neglected to order the troops to include a postal address in their email messages.

I don't for a moment believe that any of these companies and organizations neglected to provide a postal address on purpose, but it does underscore the problems that occur when a new law is pushed through with no grace period or significant time for marketers to understand the new rules. It may be that laws pushed through Congress for political expediency just may not be the best laws.

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