The question, "Can I legally send targeted email?", is a common question and the simple answer is YES but only to people who have requested it. If they did not ask for your information then your information is UNSOLICITED even if you really believe they would love to hear from you.
If you do have a list of your customers and want to send them email the next question is HOW?
If you are sending targeted email - even to your own customers who really want to hear from you - you could be at risk of losing your account with your ISP or be subject to fines of up to $11,000 by the FTC.
Who is your ISP?
Chances are you have more than one ISP. We might host your site and your email, but we may not be your ISP for your connection to the internet. We only offer that service to our customers in the Santa Monica area, and most of our hosting customers are not located in the Santa Monica area. We are not the only ISP even for our customers who have their internet connections through us - at some level there is a telco involved.
ISPs may not allow their customers to engage in SPAM practices. If they allow such practices, they can lose their ability to do business. Therefore, if you are the customer of an ISP and you engage in spam practices, your ISP has the right to turn off your service without notice.
The acceptable use policies of ISPs tend to be a bit vague. They tell you more what not to do than what you can do. PLEASE CHECK WITH YOUR ISPs for specifics. You may use this page is a guideline. However, since we are not your only ISP, you could follow the instructions on this page and still experience a termination of services!
Acceptable Use Policy
A User may not use the services provided by CompanyV.com Corp to transmit unsolicited commercial e-mail messages or deliberately send excessively large attachments to one recipient. Any unsolicited commercial e-mail messages or a series of unsolicited commercial e-mail messages or large attachments sent to one recipient constitutes Unsolicited Commercial E-mail "UCE" and is prohibited. In addition, "spamming" or "mailbombing" is also prohibited. Use of the service of another provider to send UCE, spam or mailbombs, to promote a site hosted on or connected to our network, is similarly prohibited. Likewise, you may not use the services provided by CompanyV.com Corp to collect responses from mass unsolicited e-mail messages.
If we detect unacceptable use by any of our customers we may halt services without notice. A $250.00 service charge will be billed for halting services plus $125.00 per hour for any and all actions required by us for resolution.
NEVER send mail with lists in the "TO:" or "CC:" line
ONLY send to addresses you obtained through honest means.
Have an Opt-Out option that is inforced.
Everyone's time is valuable. One person's "cause" or "concern" may mean nothing to the next. People who have no interest in your message may consider it spam, become upset and complain. With this in mind, the basic rule is, Do not send a message to anyone unless you absolutely have PROOF that the recipient has requested to receive it.
Do not send large attachments.
Do not send lengthy content when you can send links to information online.
DO NOT USE ALL CAPs
Do Not use all BOLD Don't use many colors and fonts either. Make sure your message is not hard sell, or the recipients' spam filters will probably eat it.
Test your own OPT-OUT system. Make sure you have a policy and procedure in place and that everyone understands how important it is to adhere to it.
Ideally, your message should consist only of properly formatted text. If HTML is required, it should not simply be pasted in from a web page, but should be prepared specifically for the purpose. Also, if HTML is used, there should also be an equivalent text section with the same message as text only.
Professional list management practices:
Email should be addressed specifically to the addressee and no one else. Your email database should contain the name of the addressee as well as the email address itself, so a mailing system can easily personalize the message in the body of the email.
Provide an automated unsubscribe link that puts people directly into the "remove" database. Keep records of where an address came from and records of addresses that have asked to be removed.
Professional preparation: Targeted email should be composed and formatted at least as carefully as any other marketing material that a company would produce.
So how does a company communicate with customers using email?
The FTC has rules for commercial email. These are the two most commonly overlooked:
How do you identify mail as an advertisement?
Above your promotional message - or at the top of your email.
The CAN-SPAM Act: Requirements for Commercial Emailers
The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act) establishes requirements for those who send commercial email, spells out penalties for spammers and companies whose products are advertised in spam if they violate the law, and gives consumers the right to ask emailers to stop spamming them.
The law, which became effective January 1, 2004, covers email whose primary purpose is advertising or promoting a commercial product or service, including content on a Web site. A "transactional or relationship message" - email that facilitates an agreed-upon transaction or updates a customer in an existing business relationship - may not contain false or misleading routing information, but is otherwise exempt from most provisions of the CAN-SPAM Act.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation's consumer protection agency, is authorized to enforce the CAN-SPAM Act. CAN-SPAM also gives the Department of Justice (DOJ) the authority to enforce its criminal sanctions. Other federal and state agencies can enforce the law against organizations under their jurisdiction, and companies that provide Internet access may sue violators, as well.
What the Law Requires:
Here's a rundown of the law's main provisions:
Each violation of the above provisions is subject to fines of up to $11,000. Deceptive commercial email also is subject to laws banning false or misleading advertising.
Additional fines are provided for commercial emailers who not only violate the rules described above, but also:
The law allows the DOJ to seek criminal penalties, including imprisonment, for commercial emailers who do - or conspire to:
The FTC will issue additional rules under the CAN-SPAM Act involving the required labeling of sexually explicit commercial email and the criteria for determining "the primary purpose" of a commercial email. Look for the rule covering the labeling of sexually explicit material in April 2004; "the primary purpose" rulemaking will be complete by the end of 2004. The Act also instructs the FTC to report to Congress in summer 2004 on a National Do Not E-Mail Registry, and issue reports in the next two years on the labeling of all commercial email, the creation of a "bounty system" to promote enforcement of the law, and the effectiveness and enforcement of the CAN-SPAM Act.
See the FTC Web site at www.ftc.gov/spam for updates on implementation of the CAN-SPAM Act.
The FTC maintains a consumer complaint database of violations of the laws that the FTC enforces. Consumers can submit complaints online at www.ftc.gov and forward unwanted commercial email to the FTC at email@example.com.
Your Opportunity to Comment
The National Small Business Ombudsman and 10 Regional Fairness Boards collect comments from small businesses about federal compliance and enforcement activities. Each year, the Ombudsman evaluates the conduct of these activities and rates each agency's responsiveness to small businesses. Small businesses can comment to the Ombudsman without fear of reprisal. To comment, call toll-free 1-888-REG-FAIR (1-888-734-3247) or go to www.sba.gov/ombudsman.
For More Information
The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues , visit www.ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
From the FTC:
"Remove Me" Responses and Responsibilities:
Email Marketers Must Honor "Unsubscribe" Claims http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt112.shtm
Some marketers send email as a quick and cheap way to promote their goods and services. Be aware that the claims you make in any advertisement for your products or services, including those sent by email, must be truthful. This means you must honor any promises you make to remove consumers from email mailing lists.
If your email solicitations claim that consumers can opt-out of receiving future messages by following your removal instructions, such as "click here to unsubscribe" or "reply for removal," then the removal options must function as you claim. That means any hyperlinks in the email message must be active and the unsubscribe process must work. Keep in mind:
Other points to consider if you market through commercial email:
For more information by state:
Different States have laws covering spam
California for example:
Signed by Governor, 9/17/04
This bill would define commercial e-mail advertisements to include both solicited and unsolicited advertisements. The bill would prohibit a person or entity from initiating or advertising in a commercial e-mail advertisement either sent from California or sent to a California e-mail address if the e-mail or an attachment to the e-mail contains or is accompanied by any false, misrepresented, obscured, forged, or misleading information. The bill would also prohibit a commercial e-mail advertisement sent from California or to a California e-mail address, or an attachment thereto, from containing a statement that includes deceptive information regarding the authorization by the recipient to send commercial e-mail advertisements or regarding opting out of receiving future commercial e-mail advertisements. This bill would authorize the recipient of an e-mail advertisement transmitted in violation of any of the above provisions, the e-mail service provider, or the Attorney General to bring an action to recover actual damages and liquidated damages of $1,000 per e-mail advertisement transmitted in violation of the provisions, up to $1,000,000 per incident, subject to reduction by the court, and would authorize the award of reasonable attorney's fees and costs to a prevailing plaintiff.
If we detect unacceptable use by any of our customers we may halt services without notice. A $250.00 service charge will be billed for halting services plus $125.00 per hour for any and all actions required by us for resolution. If any additional penalties or expenses are incurred these will also be the responsibility of the customer.
PLEASE NOTE: CompanyV.com Corp is not responsible if you endanger your status with any service providers outside of our control. Nor can we be held liable for legal infractions of our customers or visitors to this website. We support a ZERO SPAM policy and make every effort to educate our customers of the risks in viewing email as a quick - easy and cheap means of marketing.
We are also available for consultation on your email marketing.