This page describes how the ExactTarget application processes unsubscribe requests to help you remain compliant with the CAN-SPAM Act. You are ultimately responsible for your company's CAN-SPAM compliance, but these tools can make the job easier and help protect your reputation. See the CAN-SPAM Compliance for Email Marketing white paper for more specific information on the CAN-SPAM act and how you can apply it to your business processes. 

What Is CAN-SPAM

 The CAN-SPAM act is the U.S. Federal standards for the sending of email messages.

What Are CAN-SPAM Requirements

The CAN-SPAM Act imposes stricter requirements on Commercial email than on Transactional email. Complying with these requirements not only protects you from litigation related to the CAN-SPAM act, but also demonstrates your commitment to providing relevant messaging to your customers.

The CAN-SPAM act requires that Commercial emails, whose primary purpose is to deliver commercial content, meet the following criteria:

  • Accurately identify the sender in the header information.
  • Use a subject line that accurately represents the content of the email.
  • Identify the message as an advertisement, unless you have express consent (opt-in) from the subscriber.
  • Include your physical mailing address.
  • Provide a mechanism to opt out. You cannot require a subscriber to log in or visit more than a single page to unsubscribe.
  • Honor opt-out requests promptly. You must process an unsubscribe request within 10 days, and your unsubscribe mechanism must be operational for at least 30 days after the mailing.

However, Transactional messages, whose primary purpose is to communicate transactional content, are mostly exempt from all of the requirements except the first one. A transactional message is one that facilitates an already agreed-upon transaction or updates a customer about an ongoing transaction. For example, if a customer orders a product from your website, the receipt you send via email is a transactional message.

Because transactional messages are not required to honor opt-out requests, when the system sends a message that you designate as transactional, it does not prevent the message from being delivered to subscribers who have unsubscribed at any level.

You tell the system whether an email is Commercial or Transactional by associating a Commercial or Transactional send classification to it. When you create a Transactional send classification, you can choose to have the system honor list-level opt-outs by selecting the Honor source and publication list level opt outs checkbox. You can create multiple Transactional send classifications if you would like for some of your transactional messages to honor opt outs while others do not.

How a Subscriber Opts Out

The ExactTarget application uses the subscriber status to capture whether a subscriber has opted out (unsubscribed) from your publications.

An unsubscribed subscriber appears with a red icon in the application interface. You can also retrieve subscriber status information using the web service API.

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Every time you send a commercial email, the system checks the statuses of the subscribers to be sent to and excludes any whose status is Unsubscribed.

A subscriber can unsubscribe from emails at three different levels:

  • List-Level Unsubscribe - A subscriber who unsubscribes at the list level will not receive any emails that are sent to that list or publication list. For example, a person could unsubscribe from your Sale Announcements list but still receive emails that you send to your Weekly Newsletter list. Unsubscribing at the list level is different from removing the subscriber from the list. If you remove a subscriber from a list, the system allows you to add the subscriber again in a future import. If you unsubscribe the subscriber, the system maintains the subscriber status of Unsubscribed even if you import the subscriber again.
  • Account-Level Unsubscribe or Master Unsubscribe - A subscriber who unsubscribes at the account level has an unsubscribed status on your All Subscribers list, which is inherited by all current and future lists in your account.
  • Global Unsubscribe - A subscriber unsubscribed at the global level is maintained in a special table in the ExactTarget database, and effectively unsubscribed from all current and future lists in all ExactTarget accounts.

To learn more about Unsubscribes within the ExactTarget application, see our Unsubscribes System Guide.

One-Click Unsubscribe

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The application requires that your commercial emails contain an unsubscribe link in the body of the email, usually the footer. The URL of the link is a system-generated string that contains embedded information that the application uses to identify the subscriber who clicked the link and the email in which the subscriber clicked it.

When this URL is pinged by the subscriber clicking the link, the system looks up which list the email was sent to and sets the subscriber's status to "Unsubscribed" for that list. If the email was sent to multiple lists the subscriber is on, the system unsubscribes the subscriber from all of the lists.

Meanwhile, the subscriber's browser window displays a response message to say that the unsubscribe action was successful and give the subscriber options to resubscribe or manage other subscriptions.

Profile and Subscription Center

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The application requires that your commercial emails contain a link to the profile center. The URL of the link is a system-generated string that takes the subscriber to a customized page that shows all of the public attributes you store about the subscriber.

From the profile center, the subscriber can update their personal information in your system, as well as click another link to the subscription center. The subscription center is a page that shows all of the lists and publication lists in your account that you have marked as public.

The subscriber's personal subscription center shows whether the subscriber is subscribed to each of the public lists and publication lists. If the subscriber chooses to unsubscribe from lists they are subscribed to from this page, the system changes the subscriber's status to unsubscribed for that list.

From either the profile center or the subscription center the subscriber can choose to unsubscribe from all publications. If the subscriber selects this option, the system changes the subscriber's status to unsubscribed for the account.

Reply Mail

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If you have the reply mail management feature configured for your account and a subscriber replies to an email you send with one of the unsubscribe keywords in the subject line or body, the system automatically unsubscribes the subscriber at the account-level.

If you do not have reply mail management configured for your account, you must manually process leave requests that you receive.

Manual Processing

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If a subscriber requests to be unsubscribed through email or any other communication channel, you are required by CAN-SPAM to process this request in a timely fashion.

You can unsubscribe a subscriber at the account-level by accessing the subscriber properties and clicking the Unsubscribe from All button.

Feedback Loop

A feedback loop is mechanism by which an Internet service provider (ISP) forwards spam complaints and opt outs from its users to the senders of the messages being complained about. When ISPs use the feedback loop to forward complaints to ExactTarget, the subscriber who complained is automatically unsubscribed at the account level.

Some email clients offer tools to subscribers to unsubscribe from mailing lists by clicking a Leave or Unsubscribe button in the email client interface. When the subscriber clicks this button, the email client sends an Abuse Reporting Format (ARF) reply email with a FeedbackType value of opt-out that the ExactTarget system processes and sets the subscriber status to Unsubscribed at the account level.

Most email clients also offer a tool to report an email as spam or junk. When the subscriber clicks this button, the email client sends an ARF reply email with a FeedbackType value of abuse that the ExactTarget system processes and sets the subscriber status to Unsubscribed at the account level.

Contacting ExactTarget

Subscribers can email, call, or write to ExactTarget to request to be unsubscribed. ExactTarget personnel manually process these requests and set the subscriber status to "Unsubscribed" at the appropriate level, depending on the subscriber request.

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Last updated by lthomas at 10:25, 15 Apr 2014