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No unsubscribe link in that press release email? Here’s how to report emails to the FTC.


There are a lot of good email marketing companies out there, however there are a lot of PR “professionals” that don’t follow the rules outlined by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

These companies think they can spam everyone and get away with it, but you can report them easily.

To report an email, forward the email to [email protected].

Each email that doesn’t follow the CAN-SPAM Act rules is subject to a $16,000 fine. Yes, that’s per email campaign!

So what are the rules?

According to the CAN-SPAM Act if a business is sending out email that contains a commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service they have to follow specific rules.

  1. Don’t use false or misleading To, From, Reply-To or other routing information. This must be accurate and identify the person or business who sent the message the message.
  2. Don’t use deceptive subject lines. The subject line must accurately reflect the content of the message.
  3. Identify the message as an ad. I don’t think any of them do that.
  4. Tell recipients where the business is located by including a valid physical postal address.
  5. Tell recipients how to opt out of receiving future email from the business. This must be obvious and easy to read. Making the type too small, hard to read, or hard to find, violates the CAN-SPAM Act.
  6. Businesses must honor opt-out requests promptly. They actually get 30 days, which I think is not very prompt. If you can’t remove users immediately then you’re not using a good system. Along with this, the business can’t ask for any personally identifiable other than your email, and the unsubscribe action can only be sending a reply email or visiting a single page. If it’s more complex than that, it violates the CAN-SPAM Act.
  7. Businesses must monitor what others are doing on their behalf. They can’t blame someone else for spamming customers.

Really, those rules are not that hard. Any reputable PR agency can follow these rules and already do. However, many do not and it’s about time we took a stand and reported the emails that hit our inbox.

If you want to go the extra step, send an email back to the company that spammed you and tell them you reported to the FTC for violating the CAN-SPAM Act. That’ll get their attention and you’ll be removed from their lists pretty fast.

Well usually. Turns out that some companies, like Medialore PR, just don’t care. They feel they’re above the law and I hope that they get caught.

Please keep in mind that not all press releases are spam. Chances are you opted into some and others, even though you didn’t opt in, have unsubscribe links. Use the unsubscribe links and only report press release emails that don’t follow the rules above.

Image credit via a NY Times article about Public Relations spam.

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