The CAN-SPAM Act is a federal law enacted in 2003 prohibiting "spam" or unsolicited commercial e-mail. (An e-mail is considered commercial if it advertises or promotes a commercial product or service.) The measure affects a wide range of apartment marketing activities as well as communications with residents, prospects and other consumers.
Briefly, the Act requires certain commercial e-mail messages include:
- a valid return address and physical postal address of the sender;
- an opt-out option for recipients (senders must act on unsubscribe requests within 10 days);
- clear and conspicuous notice where the message is an advertisement or solicitation.
On May 12, 2008, the Federal Trade Commission issued a final rule implementing several provisions of the Act, mostly clarifying or affirming earlier agency interpretations. Among other things, the rules:
- Clarifies which entities are covered by the rule by defining the term “person” to mean an individual, group, unincorporated association, limited or general partnership, corporation or other business entity.
- Clarifies that senders cannot charge a fee for opt-out services or provide other information other than an e-mail address and opt-out preferences and confirms that there is no expiration to an opt-out request.
- Confirms that a registered PO Box or private mailbox can meet the requirement to include a “valid physical postal address.”
- Reaffirmed the 10-day window for processing opt-out requests, rejecting requests by some groups to shorten it to three days and from other groups to lengthen it to 31 days to mirror federal Do-Not-Call requirements.
- Identifies compliance obligations when multiple firms are marketing in the same e-mail by allowing the parties to designate one company as the “sender” with control of the content and opt-outs, but notes all the companies represented in the message are responsible for ensuring the designated sender complies with the requirements.
- Clarifies how CAN-SPAM applies to "forward-to-a-friend" e-mail marketing campaigns, in which someone either receives a commercial e-mail message and forwards the e-mail to another person, or uses a Web-based mechanism to forward a link to or copy of a Web page to another person.
Apartment firms that communicate with their residents, suppliers and other consumers via e-mail, as well as trade associations who regularly communicate with their members via e mail, are encouraged to familiarize themselves with their CAN-SPAM obligations.