Q&A: DMA’s Jerry Cerasale on CAN-SPAM
In a live chat during the recent All About eMail Virtual Conference & Expo, presented by eM+C, Jerry Cerasale, senior vice president of government affairs for the Direct Marketing Association, answered questions from listeners about CAN-SPAM. Below are some highlights from the live discussion. To replay this event, click here.
eM+C's All About eMail: Can you briefly explain how the CAN-SPAM Act was modified last summer and what those changes mean for marketers?
Jerry Cerasale: The biggest change involved an opt-out [provision]. Initially, the CAN-SPAM Act said the sender of an e-mail must have the opt-out provision. But many e-mails today come from several advertisers. So who is the sender? What person or what company must have the opt-out provision? This was one of the things totally left open in the law.
The Federal Trade Commission [the agency that oversees CAN-SPAM], however, has made a definition around this. The law now says that if there's more than one advertiser in an e-mail, the advertisers themselves must determine which one is the sender and therefore has the opt-out provision.
eM+C: Are there any general rules around how to phrase the opt-out provision with CAN-SPAM?
JC: There’s no requirement. The opt-out provision has to be conspicuous, but there’s no specific prescription about how it must appear. Most companies place it at the end of their e-mail messages, and I think that’s the most common place for it. Most Americans look at the end of messages for the opt-out language. But there’s no rule regarding the type size or exactly what the opt-out message is supposed to say.
eM+C: Can you discuss viral marketing provisions added to the new rules?
JC: The FTC made some changes around viral marketing — specifically the concept of forward-to-a-friend. The law now says that, if marketers forward coupons or discount offers to friends who then send it on to people who aren't on the marketers’ opt-in lists, the original marketers must ensure that the original recipients don't send it to someone on their opt-out list.
eM+C: What is the penalty for violating CAN-SPAM?
JC: It's $17,000 per e-mail — not campaign, but e-mail — that’s in violation. The FTC, as far as we can see, understands that mistakes happen. But since the penalty can be so expensive, marketers should make sure that everything is working correctly in regards to CAN-SPAM.
eM+C: Do you think the Act may change at any point in the near future?
JC: I don’t at this point. I think it’s still a relatively young law, and unless something drastic happens in the spam area, this law is going to stay on the books relatively unchanged for quite awhile.