CAN-SPAM—no, this blog post is not about a can of questionable meat. CAN-SPAM stands for the 2003 Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act. We’ll break down everything you need to know about CAN-SPAM rules for mortgage email marketing.
Before we get started, we should mention that we are not lawyers and this blog post shouldn’t be taken as legal advice. We highly recommend reading the FTC’s CAN-SPAM compliance guide for the official version of the rules.
When CAN-SPAM Applies
A lot of people think CAN-SPAM only applies to mass emails, but that’s not true. CAN-SPAM can apply to a single email, too.
CAN-SPAM applies whenever an email is commercial in nature, i.e. it tries to sell someone something like a product or service. Emails are considered commercial even if the email is informative but directs people to a commercial website.
For example, say I send an email that doesn’t ask someone to buy something, but it leads to my website, where I do. This email would still be considered commercial in nature.
CAN-SPAM does not apply to emails that are transactional in nature. If you’re sending someone an update about their mortgage, you don’t need to worry because you’re communicating about an agreed-upon transaction.
Permission to Email
You actually don’t have to have someone’s permission to send someone a marketing email (though it’s always a good idea to get permission). There is no email equivalent of the federal Do Not Call list.
The Law vs. Terms of Service
Even though it’s perfectly legal to send someone an unsolicited email, most email sending providers will only allow you to send to people who have explicitly opted in to your emails. And there’s a very good reason why.
If enough people mark emails from a certain email provider as spam (such as emails sent through Mailchimp or Constant Contact), those email providers will be blocked by the email companies (like gmail, yahoo, and aol).
If you send unsolicited emails through one of these services anyway, you’re violating their terms of service, but you’re not violating CAN-SPAM.
If you want to send emails to a purchased list, you’ll have to find a company that allows you to do so. A quick search of “send unsolicited emails” will give you some providers. You should also use a list cleaning service, which will ping the email’s server (not actually send an email) to make sure the email address is a valid one. We’ve used https://quickemailverification.com before with great success.
Must-Know CAN-SPAM Rules for Mortgage Email Marketing
1. Have a Physical Address in the Email
Your email must contain a physical address for your company. This can be your office address, a P.O. box, or a private mailbox.
2. Make it Easy to Unsubscribe
Make it very clear how people can unsubscribe from your email list. This can be done with a link to an opt-out page or an email reply.
You can give people the option to opt out of just certain messages from you, but you also have to allow them to opt out of everything.
You also must honor these unsubscribe requests promptly—within 10 business days.
3. Be Transparent
- The email needs to be very clear that it’s an advertisement.
- The email subject line must relate to the body of the email. This means your subject line can’t be “Awesome Giveaway Coming Up” if the email is about a new refinance program.
- The “from” email address and originating domain name need to be legitimate and clearly indicate who the email is coming from.
Other People Acting on Your Behalf
What if you use a marketing company to send out emails on your behalf? If they violate CAN-SPAM, you’re both on the hook. Make sure that any marketing company you use understands and follows CAN-SPAM rules. (Don’t worry; we do!)
Need Some Help?
If you have any questions about CAN-SPAM rules for mortgage email marketing, please reach out. We’re experts in it, since we send out emails like these for our clients all the time. Email compliance isn’t a very fun topic, but it’s a super important one because it keeps you and your company in the clear with your compliance department and with the law.