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The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003: How to avoid being labeled a ‘spammer’

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in Office Technology

If your company sends commercial e-mail ads to customers or clients, pay attention to the feds' new effort to stop junk e-mail.

As we told you, the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, which took effect Jan. 1, won't stop hard-core spammers pushing pills and porn; they'll ignore the law or move offshore. (See 1/12/04 issue.)

But you could accidentally trip over the law if you're not careful. Here are four ways to keep your e-mail ads on the good list:

1. Make sure the "from" and "to" lines are clear. The law says it's illegal to send false or misleading source or destination information.

2. Play it straight on "subject" lines. The law aims to stamp out subject lines that try to trick recipients into opening the e-mail. It's now illegal to send e-mail ads with misleading subject lines.

3. Give recipients an "unsubscribe" option. The e-mail must include a return e-mail address that lets recipients request not to receive future e-mail ads. That return address must remain functional for at least 30 days.

Plus, it's illegal to send a person any e-mail ads beyond 10 days after they've asked to unsubscribe. Also, once a person unsubscribes, you can't sell his or her e-mail address.

4. Include your company's physical address. E-mail ads must now include the sender's valid physical postal address, plus clear notice that the e-mail is an ad or solicitation. (That requirement doesn't apply if the recipient provided an earlier consent to receive the e-mail.)

Final point: Don't think you can claim innocence by using a third-party e-mail service. The law says you both become targeted law violators.

To read the text of the law, visit www.spamlaws.com/federal.

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