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Anyone sending commercial email messages must comply with the regulations set out by the CAN-SPAM act. If you do email marketing, then you hopefully know this and already follow the rules set out by CAN-SPAM. But what about your affiliates?


When affiliates send out commercial emails on behalf of another company, anyone involved in the process can be found liable if an email breaches CAN-SPAM rules. This means that you could be doing everything right, but if one of your affiliates isn’t, you could still get penalized.

Violating CAN-SPAM regulations could lead to fines of up to $16,000 per email sent! So, it is certainly worth taking the time to review the sending practices of your business and any affiliate partners you have. It's important to ensure all communications associated with your business are compliant.

Rules to be aware of

When you're sending an advertisement, you must clearly indicate this in the email so as not to deceive recipients. If the content of the email is advertising an affiliate partner, this must be clearly stated. The financial relationship between you and the affiliate must be made clear in the email.

As with any commercial email, you must provide a clear way for recipients to opt-out of receiving your emails. You cannot obscure this option or hide it away. CAN-SPAM also prohibits you from demanding payment or any further information to complete the opt-out process. Plus, the process itself must be simple to carry out. Once someone opts out of your emails, you must honor the request within 10 working days.

Senders of commercial emails must also provide a physical business address within the email so recipients know the location of the sender. The sender also can't disguise their identity. To prevent this, make sure the from: field matches your email domain name.

Staying compliant

These laws are not difficult to abide by, but how do you know what your affiliate partners are up to? If partners send out emails to promote your business, it is a good idea to create a template yourself in a CAN-SPAM-compliant fashion. Provide your affiliate with this template for use so you know they are meeting all the necessary criteria.

Another good practice is requiring your affiliates to send you a test email before sending it to their mailing list. You can then review the email and determine if anything needs changing.

Make sure you and your affiliates are complying to CAN-SPAM. You'll not only avoid unnecessary fines and legal action, you will also deliver marketing messages that are seen more favorably by your recipients.