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Does CAN SPAM require multiple opt-outs on emails?

Today’s Wednesday question comes from M. B.

My company sometimes sends mail to our list on behalf of 3rd parties. A recent 3rd party told us that CAN SPAM requires the email contain their opt-out link as well as ours. Is this correct?”

The FTC’s most recent rulemaking says specifically that this sort of multiple opt-out is confusing for the consumer and the only company that needs to provide an opt out is the designated “sender” where “sender” is the entity in the from: line.

In my experience there are only two groups who want the multiple opt-out links in emails.

1) Folks who are new at this and don’t really understand the law and don’t do a lot of email marketing. They may have seen something, somewhere about opt-outs being required and are confused about their liabilities.

2) Groups who have been doing this a long time and who do a lot of email marketing. There are a couple reasons they do this. Sometimes they are actively trying to confuse recipients to lower the chance a recipient will successfully opt out. Sometimes they are building massive suppression lists so that they can use addresses acquired through non-permission based means (harvesting, purchasing, co-reg, whatever) more successfully. And, sometimes, they’re attempting to harvest your subscribers by taking the opt-outs from you.

For me the third party claiming that they have to put in an opt-out for them in your email is a pretty big red flag. To the extent that I would strongly reconsider moving forward advertising for them.

From a delivery standpoint, I always worry about links that go places my clients don’t control. If their unsub link goes to their domain, and they use the same domain in all their mailings, then you have no control over delivery. Your mail will share the reputation of every other bit of mail with their link in it. If some of their other partners have poor reputations, then that’s going to affect your inbox delivery for this send. It’s very unlikely this is going to cause long term delivery problems, but it may very well cause short term ones.

Also, if they are not providing you with a list of addresses that have opted out from their mailings in the past so that you can stop mailing to them, then you should wonder what they’re going to do with the opt-outs they’re going to collect from your subscribers.

As always, I’m not a lawyer, but this doesn’t fit with my understanding of CAN SPAM.

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