E-Mail SPAM Issues – Definition & Laws – CAN-SPAM Act

Companies doing business on-line often have questions related to two intersecting categories of e-mail issues – those related to SPAM, and those related to their bandwidth agreements.


Generally, issues related to bandwidth agreements occur when a bandwidth provider suspends its customer’s bandwidth because of SPAM complaints, or the fact that the customer has been listed on an RBL. Issues of this sort must usually be resolved by reference to the terms of your agreement with your bandwidth provider. However, companies should examine how they do business and discuss e-mail issues with their bandwidth providers during contract negotiations. In particular, I encourage you to be upfront with them about the number of complaints you receive and the typical business goals of your clients. In that way, you might avoid business disruptions typically associated with temporary bandwidth suspensions.


Legal issues surrounding SPAM affect both your relationship with third parties, and your relationship with your customers. As with bandwidth agreements, it is important for you to discuss your business goals with your customers. Customers should understand, prior to contracting with you, what your policies are for unsolicited commercial e-mail. This will help avoid it being characterized as SPAM by third parties and your bandwidth providers. Proactive steps to address e-mail issues generally help minimize the drastic effects of being listed on an RBL, or having a third party take action based on the CAN-SPAM Act.

All companies who use e-mail, whether for traditional business or marketing purposes should familiarize themselves with the CAN-SPAM Act. This act sets out, in a quite detailed manner, the steps that must be taken in order to comply with its provisions. These steps have been further refined by regulations and decisions made by the Federal Trade Commission. Importantly, even if you are not engaged in activities generally understood to be within the concept of SPAM, you may still be required to comply with its provisions. It should be noted that the Act creates a private right of action for entities who fall within the definition of “Internet Service Providers.” Many of these entities have been extremely litigious in their approach to the CAN-SPAM Act.

The resources on the right may help you further understand this issue.