Nobody ever enforces this, but you could be liable for penalties of up to $43,280 PER INDIVIDUAL EMAIL IN VIOLATION! Do I have your attention? I think I do.
Before we dig into the details, I have to give you the usual caveats:
I am not a lawyer. I probably have no idea what I'm talking about. You shouldn't take ANY legal advice from me. What I write is my own non-professional interpretation of United States laws. As such, the discussion relates ONLY to firms and transactions that can be prosecuted under United States federal statutes.
Okay, let's go. Your assignment is to read the following web page:
Most of the items and requirements for sending commercial email are fairly common sense and I think we are all aware of them by now… Don't be misleading, be truthful and clear about who is sending the message, include the ability for recipients to opt-out or unsubscribe. Fine.
But let's focus on item #4:
Tell recipients where you’re located. Your message must include your valid physical postal address. This can be your current street address, a post office box you’ve registered with the U.S. Postal Service, or a private mailbox you’ve registered with a commercial mail receiving agency established under Postal Service regulations.
Whoa. I only became aware of this clause because the BigMarker webinar platform made me include that information in their email templates. I couldn't schedule an email without filling in physical address data. What a pain. Then I looked up the statute. They're right!
But on further reading, it turns out there is a twist. You need to go through the Q&A sections further down the page.
Invitations and promotional emails are almost certainly covered by this clause. They are considered commercial communications designed to "advertise or promote a commercial product or service, including content on a website operated for a commercial purpose." It doesn't matter that you are sending such invitations to existing clients or people who have opted in for emails from you. Each promotional email letting people know about a new webinar must still comply. This is where you could potentially be held liable for not including your physical address. Are you shocked? I was!
But how about confirmation, reminder, and follow up emails sent to registrants of a webinar? BigMarker still requires me to add physical address information on those, but I think they are wrong. These emails fall into a category known as "transactional or relationship." They "facilitate or confirm a commercial transaction that the recipient already has agreed to."
In transactional or relationship emails, physical address information is not required. They just need to be truthful and not misleading.
Why does BigMarker care what you do in your emails? It's your problem, your exposure. Wait a minute…
"More than one person may be held responsible for violations. For example, both the company whose product is promoted in the message and the company that originated the message may be legally responsible."
Are you a webinar software vendor? Do you send the emails that your customers schedule in your system? Do you allow webinar invitations to be sent through your automated mailing processes? Hmmm… Maybe your product management and engineering teams should have a chat with your legal department about this.