Yesterday, the FTC announced new rulings associated with CAN-SPAM . Although not a major announcement, these rulings more clearly define the line between transactional and promotional messages. For a while now, many emailers have been 'dressing up' transactional messages with lots of accompanying promotions, often with the goal of avoiding the inbox deluge by saying more with fewer mailings. However, this announcement puts some new rules around that practice.
One of the more important parts of the new ruling states that transactional information must be provided "in whole or substantial part at the beginning of the body of the message" for the message to be considered transactional, and thus exempt from the commercial rules like inclusion and honoring of opt-outs.
So, if hotel chain XYZ has been sending out its monthly loyalty points statements without an opt-out link-something most thought permissible until today-it had better take a close look to make sure that transactional content-the points balance information-is included at the very top of the message body where it cannot be missed…as well as taking a closer look at the subject line, as per some of the other provisions of the new ruling.
Frankly, it has always been my belief that the safest point of view to take is to apply the commercial rules to every message you send. The extra obligations you incur, like honoring opt-outs and including a physical address, are considered best practices by most in the industry, and the extra comfort you get from not having to scramble when a new ruling comes out is well worth the small extra effort.