The CAN-SPAM Act in the United States takes some heat on the international stage – as an “opt-out” law, it’s considered akin to “best practices” more so than “high standards” for digital marketing in today’s age. Conversely, opt-in consent laws such as the Canadian Anti Spam Law (CASL) are taking initial heat for being to onerous. CASL is new enough that it remains to be seen the effects, good or bad.
With CAN-SPAM however, we’ve now got 10+ years of enforcement and compliance under our collective belts. As an opt-out regime, focus is put squarely on unsubscribe practices for marketers subject to the Act.
The Online Trust Alliance (OTA), is a non-profit whose mission is to enhance online trust. They recently undertook a study on the Unsubscribe practices of retailers and e-commerce sites to determine how well they are enabling consumers to easily opt out of email lists. Merchants were audited against 10 unsubscribe best practices and identified those who appear to be successfully implementing at least 8 of those 10 items. These best practices include the following:
- Opt-out copy and link should be “clear and conspicuous”.
- Use commonly understood terms such as “unsubscribe” or “opt-out”.
- Text should be easily read by recipients of all ages and on all devices.
- Provide an easy mechanism to opt-out of all email, not just the specific email program that
they clicked the link on.
- Use a link directing users to a combination preference center to unsubscribe, opt-down or
make other changes.
- Eliminate the confusion generated by an unbranded unsubscribe web page.
- Serve an unsubscribe confirmation web page.
- Remove unsubscribes without delay.
- Include the “unsubscribe header”.
- Learn from your mistakes.
The good news: OTA reported that 70 percent of the top 200 online retailers have moved beyond compliance and are demonstrating a commitment to user empowerment and control of their inboxes.
Not all news was good however. OTA reported that 10 percent of those reviewed appear to be in violation of the CAN-SPAM Act and Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL).
“Despite CAN-SPAM taking effect 10 years ago, it is disappointing that a number of the world’s biggest online retailers have yet to get things right,” said Craig Spiezle, Executive Director and President of OTA.
The OTA also named an Honor Roll, listing companies found to be 100% compliant with the Unsubscribe practices reviewed. Those companies so honered were:
Kudos to all the companies in the study that are meeting most or all of the best practices, working to uphold not only the requirements of CAN-SPAM as well as CASL, but more importantly the social contract with their end users’ email addresses.
It’s a great report, and a great thing for OTA to report on. I encourage you to read the Full Email Unsub Best Practices Audit.