Businesses that are expanding the reach of brick-and-mortar companies or operating Internet-based businesses often use Craigslist to reach large segments of the website’s millions of users. Companies sell directly to customers on Craigslist or provide links to draw traffic to external websites.
Craigslist , a mostly free online venue, reports that it has more than 700 local sites worldwide, publishes in 70 countries and hosts listings for hundreds of major metropolitan areas in the United States. Sellers who use Craigslist must make sure they do not run afoul of federal and state anti-spam laws, international laws regarding the use of email address lists and Craigslist policies prohibiting spam.
Federal Spam Laws
The Federal Communications Commission enforces legislation, known as the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing or CAN-SPAM Act, that prohibits commercial messages sent over wireless devices. The Federal Trade Commission, or FTC, enforces CAN-SPAM Act rules that prohibit commercial email messages or spam sent by communications companies to computers or non-wireless devices.
The CAN-SPAM Act defines commercial messages as those sent primarily to promote a product or service. Marketers and sellers can avoid violating spam laws by following FTC instructions for sending commercial email messages: clearly identify the message as a promotion or solicitation, include accurate information in the subject line, provide a method for opting out of future messages and provide the sender’s return email address and postal address.
State Spam Laws
Although federal spam laws supersede state laws, the Federal Communications Commission allows states to enforce CAN-SPAM Act rules regarding non-wireless commercial messages. In 2010, 37 states had anti-spam laws regulating commercial email messages, according to the FCC.
State anti-spam laws regulate marketing through unsolicited and bulk email, specifically fraudulent or commercial email. Many state laws focus on attempts to hide the sender of emails and to use the subject line of email to mislead recipients. State anti-spam laws enforce many of the same requirements for commercial messages that are included in the CAN-SPAM Act.
The Internet increases the reach of Craigslist marketers and sellers to other countries, which often have laws that might differ from those in the United States. Many countries have laws prohibiting or regulating the collection and sale of email address lists.
According to its Information Commissioner’s Office, England’s electronic mail laws prohibit marketers from selling or sharing email lists unless the owners of the email addresses have agreed to the practice. England’s laws also forbid sending marketing emails to someone who has not agreed to receive the emails.