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Federal Law

The federal CAN-SPAM Act went into effect on January 1, 2004. The CAN-SPAM Act (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003) was created by federal lawmakers as a new tool for combating the onslaught of unsolicited commercial email commonly known as "spam." The CAN-SPAM Act preempts all state law that regulates commercial email except to the extent that state law prohibits falsity or deception.

Because Washington State's Spam Law focuses exclusively on falsity and deception, it is not preempted by the new federal law. The federal law therefore generally gives consumers of this state a second, different tool to combat spam. The federal statute:

  • Requires senders of commercial email to provide recipients with the ability to opt out of receiving more email;
  • Requires email to be identified as an advertisement or commercial email;
  • Requires sexually-oriented email be labeled as such in the subject line;
  • Requires the physical address of the sender to be included in the email;
  • Requires the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to study:
    • The viability of a do-not-spam registry (similar to the recent do-not-call registry);
    • Effects, in general, of commercial email; and
    • The viability of reward system for those who report unlawful spamming.
  • Creates criminal penalties for those who violate substantive provisions of the law; and
  • Does not give consumers a private right of action.

If you would like to file a complaint under the CAN-SPAM Act, the FTC accepts spam complaints at spam@uce.gov. The FTC also provides more detailed information about spam issues and the CAN-SPAM law on the FTC website.

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