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As a Certified sender, what do I need to know about unsubscribe mechanisms?

An unsubscribe mechanism is a way for subscribers to opt out of receiving your emails. This can be:

  • A link to a website
  • A response to an email
  • A phone call

To be CAN-SPAM compliant, all promotional or commercial email must have unsubscribe functionality. It also must be clear, straightforward, and easy. Each separate email in violation of the CAN-SPAM Act is subject to penalties of up to $16,000. Also, if you make it hard for people to unsubscribe from your email, their only other choice is to complain by hitting "This is Spam".

Certification requirements
For Certified senders, all unsubscribe mechanisms need to be:

  • Easy-to-use:
    • Make sure your unsubscribe mechanism is easy to find.
    • Make sure it is easy for users to understand how to unsubscribe.
    • Do not require users to log into their accounts to unsubscribe.
  • Timely:
    • Respond to requests within 3 days.
    • Resolve requests within 10 days.
  • Persistent:
    • Once users opt out, do not send them commercial or promotional emails.
    • Once users opt out, do not sell, share, or lease their addresses or information.
  • Indefinite:
    • Keep the unsubscribe link alive for at least 60 days following the sending of the commercial message.
    • Do not contact subscribers or add them back into your email list unless they opt in again.
  • Absolute:
    • Allow the recipients of peer-initiated mail to globally unsubscribe or opt out of all of your emails.
  • Flexible:
    • Let users unsubscribe through alternative methods, such as phone calls, postal mail, and email accounts that do not usually deal with unsubscribe requests.
  • CAN-SPAM-compliant (of the actions listed above, these are necessary for CAN-SPAM compliance):
    • Handle unsubscribe requests within 10 days.
    • Do not make the recipient take any step other than sending a reply email or visiting a single page on an Internet website.
    • Make sure all peer-initiated emails offer the ability for users to unsubscribe from all future mailings.
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