Q&A: Send to a friend and CAN-SPAM

Dear EmailKarma,

We’ve been having internal discussions regarding whether or not Send-a-Friend or Refer-a-Friend emails are subject to CAN SPAM laws. I tend to think they are, but am seeking confirmation, what’s your take?

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Hello,

Please do not take this as legal advice only EmailKarma’s interpretation. For legal interpretation of your specific case, EmailKarma recomends you engage your companies legal council for a full review of the SAF/RAF messages your sending.

CAN-SPAM gave us two distinct classifications of email; Commercial and Transactional. These two classes of mail are defined based on the purpose and content of the message. Based on the content of your SAF/RAF messages you will need to fit into one of these two classes.

Commercial; These messages are reasonably understood by a recipient to be selling or promoting a service or product. These must have the proper CAN-SPAM information included in them; Postal Address, web enabled unsubscribe, and subject lines and headers that are not misleading or deceptive.

Transactional; is defined as an email that facilitates an agreed-upon transaction or updates a customer in an existing business relationship. These may not contain false or misleading routing information, but otherwise is exempt from most provisions of the CAN-SPAM Act.

There are also multi-purpose messages that need to be considered and classified into one of the above categories. An example of a multi-purpose message would be your transactional bill of sale with an up sell offer on the next purchase. Based on the subject line, and the uppermost part of the message the you will need to decide how these are going to be treated under your sending policies. Having the transaction/billing details clearly mentioned in the subject line and the purchase information at the top of the message should earn you transactional status, but with an offer at the top of the same message your mail will most likely need to be classified as commercial.

If ever in doubt be CAN-SPAM Complaint, it’s better to be safe then sorry.

Do you have a question for EmailKarma? Email them to contact or leave a comment.

Author: Matt V - @emailkarma

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