E-mail Marketing and CAN-SPAM Laws

AUGUST 25, 2016
Christopher Burton, MD
Practice Management, Columns, Technology, Medical Practice, Marketing, CAN-SPAM Laws, e-mail
Not surprisingly, the Federal Trade Commission has outlined laws regarding the use of e-mail as a marketing resource. These laws are defined in what is referred to as the CAN-SPAM Act. This law establishes guidelines for commercial messages as well as outlines the rights of e-mail recipients. The law further defines the penalties for businesses who don’t abide by these laws which can cost a maximum of $16,000. Fortunately, the law is relatively simple to understand and equally as easy to follow. Take a look below at the summary of CAN-SPAM’s requirements.
1.  Header information must be accurate.
All information in the header including the “from”, “to”, and “reply to” sections must be accurate. The message receiver should be able to identify the person and/or business who sent the message.
2.  The subject line must be truthful.
The information in the subject line must be reflective of the message’s content.
3.  The sender must identify advertising messages specifically as an advertisement.
The CAN-SPAM law does not state a specific way to do this. In some part of the message content, the message needs to be identified as an advertisement.
4.  The message must include the address of the sender.
A valid postal address that belongs to the message sender must be included in the message content.
5.  Recipients must have an option to opt out of future messages.
The message must contain a very clear explanation of the how the message recipient can opt out of future messages. This explanation must be easy to identify, read, and comprehend.
6.  Opt-out requests must be handled promptly.
Every opt-out request must be honored within ten business days. You may not charge a fee or request any personally identifying information (other than an e-mail address) from the recipient. Once an individual opts out, you may not transfer or sell their e-mail address. 
7.  You must monitor those working on your behalf.
The law is very clear that legal responsibility is not gone even if another company is hired to handle your e-mail marketing. You must ensure the company is abiding by the law and that all of the above-mentioned items are taken into consideration.
E-mail is an important tool for marketing to your patients. However, it must be done within the limits of the law. Protect yourself and your practice while you make the most of the opportunity to educate your patients on what you offer.

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