By Pam Neely May 24, 2022
CAN-SPAM law requires all commercial emails include the sender’s physical address. But that doesn’t mean you have to include your home address.
Adding your business’s — or your own — physical address to all your emails is a required step when you set up your first email campaign.
It makes some people a little nervous. “What if someone comes to my house?”
Fortunately, there are ways to meet this requirement without revealing where you live or risking a fine.
But first, let’s explain why you have to include that physical address.
CAN-SPAM law and physical email address
Everybody hates spam emails. (Especially us!) And adding a physical address to your emails is one of the best ways to stop spammers and reduce how many unwanted emails we all get in our inboxes.
The U.S. anti-spam law called CAN-SPAM was enacted in 2003. It set up a number of requirements and restrictions on sending emails, one of which includes the physical address requirement.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) describes this requirement as follows:
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.
Here’s what a physical address would look like in the footer of an email.
Every email you send to an email marketing list has to have a physical address included in the email footer.
There are usually a lot of questions about this, so let’s cover the most common ones:
Can I use a fake address to get around the CAN-SPAM Act?
- Do NOT do this. You risk a $46,517 fine per violation — per subscriber — if you violate this rule. And yes — people really have had to pay fines like that. And they had to pay them for each email in violation of the Act.
- Even if the Feds don’t come after you, if your email marketing service finds out, they could ban you from ever using their service again. Email service providers (like AWeber) make their living by providing a spam-free, CAN-SPAM-Act-complaint service. They have dozens of checks and triggers in their systems to shut spammers down fast.
Are there alternatives if I don’t want to include my physical address?
Yes. You can use a business address. The business address you use could be:
- A post office box (a P.O. box)
The United States Postal Service offers mailbox rentals for as little as $4.67 a month.
- A physical mailing address through a business that provides them
Google “get a physical mailing address” and you’ll have plenty of options to choose from. Often these are a bit more expensive than a U.S. post office box, but they may come with additional services.
- A virtual mailbox
These can be an attractive solution if you’re in the middle of a move, living abroad, or if the idea of having to go to the post office to check your mail every so often is not appealing.
Virtual mailboxes typically offer mail scanning services, so you can see what’s been delivered to your mailbox without having to actually open it yourself. Then, if there is a piece of mail you want, the service will forward the mail to you wherever you are.
These services can be helpful because they also accept packages, and they won’t give you a P.O. Box. Some companies won’t ship to a P.O. box, so consider that as well.
- A business partner’s mailing address
Clearly, you’ll want to get permission before you use someone else’s physical address in your emails, but in some circumstances you can use a business or an organization for your mailing address. For instance:
- If you’re a teacher, you may be able to receive mail at the school you teach at.
- If you’re an artist or a crafts vendor, you may be able to receive mail at the gallery or at the events center where you have a booth.
- If you’re a local farmer or food company and you sell at your local farmer’s market, they may be able to receive mail for you.
- If you have a relationship with a studio or recording space, they might accept mail for you.
- If you use a co-working site or a shared office space, they will often accept mail for their clients.
Don’t abuse this suggestion, but keep your eye out for opportunities. Always ask permission first. There are post office regulations around accepting other peoples’ mail. You may also need to fill out a USPS Form 1583, “Application for Delivery of Mail Through Agent.”
If CAN-SPAM is only a U.S. law, do I have to abide by it if I’m based in a different country?
Yes, you still have to abide by CAN-SPAM. Any email service provider that’s based in the United States will be bound by the CAN-SPAM Act, for starters. So again, your email service provider will act as a first-line of defense enforcer of the CAN-SPAM Act.
Does having a physical mailing address in emails help with deliverability?
Yes. Some email clients (like Yahoo, Gmail, Outlook, etc.) will crawl through the content of any email they receive. If no address is found, the email may just be sent to peoples’ spam folders. Because… if there’s no address, it looks like spam.
One last reason to include a physical address in emails: It’s good business
Getting great results from email marketing often comes down to one thing: Trust. If your subscribers trust you, they’ll open and click your emails. If they don’t trust you, your emails’ engagement rates will be poor and you’ll get a lot of unsubscribes.
There are many ways to build trust, but including a postal address in email footers does make you and your emails seem more legitimate to subscribers.
For that reason (as well as all the legal stuff), you really need to include a postal address. Get a mailbox or a business address if you have to, but don’t try to circumvent this rule.
Extra credit: Include your phone number as well. And if you’re a local brick and mortar business, include your office hours.