CHICAGO — Multiple Listing Services (MLS) organizations across the country send out millions of emails each month. Do you know if your vendor’s email system or your email system complies with the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 (Law)?
This Law was signed by President George W. Bush in 2003 to establish the United States’ first set of national standards regarding email and authorizes the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to enforce the Law’s provisions. The Law focuses on “commercial electronic messages” with primary purposes of commercial advertisements or promotions. The emails sent from an MLS on behalf of brokers/agents to their clients will generally be classified as commercial advertisements of their services.
Interesting facts about the Law:
Prohibits consumers from filing their own private lawsuits for damages
Authorizes the FTC, state attorney generals, and ISPs to sue on behalf of damaged consumers
Penalties can include a fine of $250 for every email that is sent after a company has received an opt out request, and the penalty can be increased three times if it is proven that the company acted “willfully and knowingly”
Basics elements about theLaw:
Visible and operable unsubscribe mechanism in every email
Complete the request within 10 business days
Additional information to consider:
Only send emails to individuals that have requested a client relationship
Provide a very clear explanation of the opt out process so that there is no question to consumers about how to remove themselves from future emails
Use clear subject lines in emails to accurately describe content of emails
Put company’s physical address in emails so they can contact you by other means if necessary
Maintain a documented database of the interactions between the broker/agent and the client to show that the client requested the email
While technology continues to advance, email is still one of the primary methods of communication between brokers/agents and their clients. The CMLS Legal Section Council recommends that all MLS organization perform a thorough review with the vendors of their email systems and make sure they comply with the Law’s requirements.