The senator from Arizona may not be too savvy with email, but that doesn’t stop him from closing loopholes in CAN-SPAM like a true internet virtuoso. The McCain Amendment was added to CAN-SPAM by the McCain office to ensure that a vendor can’t sneak out of proper compliance by having someone else send the email for them. In a nut shell the amendment states that you are responsible for the compliance of the email whether it’s sent by you or a third party.
Probably the most common situation where this would apply is the Merchant/Affiliate relationship. For those not familiar with affiliate marketing the “merchant” is someone who runs a program that financially compensates members of the program (the affiliates) when they send traffic that results in a sale or lead. If you’re a merchant who runs an affiliate program, remember that you’re going to be on the hook just as much as your affiliate if they are sending out spam.
The best way to ensure that you won’t have the FTC knocking on your door is to remain constantly vigilant in regards to the affiliates in your program and the emails they’re sending. Some of the steps to take:
- Clearly state the CAN-SPAM rules in the terms of service.
- Let affiliates know you have a Zero Tolerance policy when it comes to spam.
- Have your affiliates place you on their subscriber list. Just you being on the list will probably keep them on their toes, but if you want to review the emails occasionally it won’t hurt.
- Educate your affiliates. Creating a 5 minute video tutorial with a program like camtasia that gives the novice email marketer the ins and outs of compliance can save you a lot of head aches in the future.
- Heed any warnings you get from potential customers. If you get any complaints about inability to unsubscribe to your mailing list or other spam complaints then kindly ask them to forward you the offending email so you can take action. By the time someone is contacting you there have probably already been scores of angry spam recipients that have simply hit the Spam button in there email client (Something you don’t want if your domain name is in the email), potentially hurting the deliverability of your own email campaigns, so jump on this ASAP.
So with some careful attention and a good group of affiliates you should be able to have both a profitable and CAN-SPAM compliant stream of revenue for your site. Just remember, if you ever have any questions about whether what you are sending is in-line with CAN-SPAM it’s probably time for a re-read of the rules.