What does CAN-SPAM mean?

The Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing Act of 2003 was the first piece of legislation to govern the sending of commercial emails. At the time, many consumer advocates complained that the bill did not go far enough to prevent the sending of unwanted “spam” email.

The bill does not prevent businesses from sending unsolicited advertisements via email. Rather, it effectively sets the conditions that must be met in order for businesses to send spam email.

Noteworthy requirements of this bill include:

  • An easy-to-find unsubscribe option is present.
  • Opt out requests are completed within 10 days.
  • Emails can not be sent to addresses that are “harvested” (for example, by bots scraping Web pages).
  • Subject and From lines must be accurate.
  • Physical address of sender is present.

If emails meet these conditions (among others) they are not vulnerable to any legal penalties. However, as discussed more below, meeting the conditions of this act does not prevent sites from being identified as “spammers” by email providers such as Gmail, Yahoo!, or Hotmail.

Penalties under the CAN-SPAM act are relatively rare, but there have been a number of cases where six-figure fines have been levied in response to violations. The penalties for violations of this act can be significant; each violation can result in fines of up to $16,000.

Compliance with the CAN-SPAM act does not mean that sites will be protected from action taken by email providers and email service providers. Google’s Gmail, for example, identifies and automatically filters out spam messages by detecting

When recipients of an email mark a message as spam (or when an email provider filters out suspected spam), there is no notification to the government agency responsible for enforcing the CAN-SPAM laws.

In other words, emails that are sent in full compliance with CAN-SPAM laws are often marked as spam messages by email providers (such as Gmail) and by users. It is these spam complaints that can damage the reputation of a publisher with an email service provider (such as AWeber or MailChimp) and result in a suspension of email sending activities.

In order to avoid penalties from your email provider (which can prevent you from sending any emails to your subscribers), you’ll need to do much more than simply comply with the conditions of this law. Some resources for avoiding spam detectors of email providers are included in the resources below.

CAN-SPAM’s Requirement

Here’s the rundown of CAN-SPAM’s main requirements: 

  • Don’t use false or misleading header information
  • Don’t use deceptive subject lines
  • Identify the messages as an ad
  • Tell recipients where you’re located
  • Tell recipients how to opt-out of receiving future email from you
  • Honor opt-out request promptly
  • Monitor what others are doing on your behalf

Do & Don’t for CAN-SPAM Compliance

There are several rules in order to be CAN-SPAM compliant. 


  • Provide a clear and obvious way to opt-out of every email you send out
  • Include your valid physical postal address in every email you send out
  • Use clear language that accurately reflects who you are


  • Don’t make it hard to unsubscribe from emails
  • Don’t use deceptive lines in your emails
  • Don’t sell or transfer any email address to another list


What does CAN-SPAM mean?

CAN-SPAM stands for Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing act of 2003 was the first piece of legislation to govern the sending of commercial emails.

What is the CAN-SPAM penalty?

The CAN-SPAM Act is enforced primarily by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which can seek civil penalties of up to $16,000 per violation (with no maximum penalty)

How to report violations of the CAN-SPAM acts? 

To report a violation of the CAN-SPAM acts is by recording the email address and the business name of the offending message, then complete the online complaint submission form on the Federal Trade Commission website or send an email to [email protected]

What is an acceptable spam complaint rate

A normal spam complaint rate is anything less than 0,1% or 1 complaint for every 1,000 messages. Anything above this level is considered high