CAN-SPAM and Canned Spam
Tasty Spam Versus Scary SPAM
Recently I was watching a rerun of Bizzare Foods: Washington, D.C. with my family. On the show, host Andrew Zimmern, eats strange and wonderful foods from all over the world. In this particular episode, he stopped off at various food trucks in Farragut Square and had a Spam musubi at Hula Girl Food Truck.
Spam musubi is a Hawaiian snack food. It’s made of an oversized sushi rectangular “roll” made of sushi rice, a Spam slice cooked in a teriyaki sauce, sprinkled with furikaki (Japanese condiment) and wrapped in nori (sushi seaweed). In Hawaii, I grew up with this dish. It was a childhood favorite. So you can image how shocked and dismayed I was when Andrew announced that he didn’t like it. A man known for eating (and enjoying) some of the strangest food available hates the Spam musubi. I was shocked!
I guess maybe you have to live in Hawaii to truly appreciate Spam. Hawaiians LOVE Spam! Hawaii Magazine explained the Hawaiian love affair with spam in an article awhile back. Since fresh meat was so scarce on the islands during World War II, over 100 million pounds of Spam were shipped abroad to help feed Allied troops and a lot of it went to Hawaii. It wasn’t long before the locals started coming up with lots of recipes using Spam. All these years later, Spam musubi is still one of the most popular. It can be found almost everywhere on the islands: at grocery stores, the football stadium, drug stores, bake sales, even the beverage cart on the golf courses. President Obama ordered two Spam musubi while golfing on the ninth hole during one of his Hawaiian vacations.
The Difference Between Spam and SPAM
Even people who love Spam, almost unanimously hate SPAM – the unsolicited emails attacking our inbox with the mindless, relentless determination of a herd of zombies. We have filters, blockers, and apps to stop them, but it never seems to stop showing up.
As a result of all the annoying inbox clutter, Congress enacted the: Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act in 2003. You may know it better as the CAN-SPAM Act. Whether you’ve heard of it or not, as a business owner the CAN-SPAM Act is something you need to know about.
The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 prohibits the inclusion of deceptive or misleading information and subject headings. It requires identifying information such as a return address in email messages, and prohibits sending emails to a recipient after the recipient opts out of receiving messages.
This law covers all commercial messages, which the law defines as “any electronic mail message the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service,” including email that promotes content on commercial websites. The law makes no exception for business-to-business email. That means all email – for example, a message to former customers announcing a new product line – must comply with the law.
Each separate email in violation of the CAN-SPAM Act is subject to penalties of up to $16,000, and, in some situations, criminal penalties, including imprisonment.
It sounds ominous, but following the law isn’t complicated if you follow a few, common-sense basics:
- Don’t use false or misleading information. Your “From,” “To,” “Reply-To,” and routing information – including the originating domain name and email address – must be accurate and identify the person or business who initiated the message. Don’t use deceptive subject lines.
- Identify the message as an ad. The law gives you a lot of leeway in how to do this, but you must disclose clearly and conspicuously that your message is an advertisement.
- Tell recipients how to opt out of receiving future email from you. Your message must include a clear and conspicuous explanation of how the recipient can opt out of getting email from you in the future.
- Honor opt-out requests promptly. Any opt-out mechanism you offer must be able to process opt-out requests for at least 30 days after you send your message. You must honor a recipient’s opt-out request within 10 business days. You can’t charge a fee, require the recipient to give you any personally identifying information beyond an email address, or make the recipient take any step other than sending a reply email or visiting a single page on an Internet website as a condition for honoring an opt-out request. Once people have told you they don’t want to receive more messages from you, you can’t sell or transfer their email addresses, even in the form of a mailing list. The only exception is that you may transfer the addresses to a company you’ve hired to help you comply with the CAN-SPAM Act.
Following the rules of the CAN-SPAM Act is even easier if you use a professional email marketing service (like the one I use to send my newsletters). They automate the process to make sure you’re complying with the law, and make your emails look professional.
Click here to learn more about the CAN-SPAM Act on the Federal Trade Commission’s website.