Violating CAN-SPAM: Misleading Headers – NMP Skip to main content

Violating CAN-SPAM: Misleading Headers

Jonathan Foxx
Dec 17, 2014

Question: We were recently cited by our regulator for violations of CAN-SPAM. Specifically, the header of our email was considered to be misleading. How do we determine when a header is violating the CAN-SPAM requirements?

Answer: CAN-SPAM is the acronym for Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003. The Act governs the use of commercial email as a marketing tool as well as other activities relating to commercial email that is deemed to be abusive. It is unlawful to initiate a transmission to a protected computer of a commercial electronic mail message, or a transactional or relationship message, that contains, or is accompanied by, header information that is materially false or materially misleading.

Generally, a “protected computer” is a computer used in interstate or foreign commerce or communication, including a computer located outside the United States that is used in a manner that affects interstate or foreign commerce or communication of the United States. [LVRC Holdings LLC v. Brekka, 581 F.3d 1127, 1131 (9th Cir. Nev. 2009)] Gradually this definition has been expanded to include all networked computers, inside the U.S. or outside. [Shurgard Storage Centers, Inc. v. Safeguard Self Storage, Inc., 119 FSupp2d 1121 (WD Wash 2000)] Briefly put, computers on the Internet are “protected computers.” [US v. Fowler, Case No. 8:10-cr-65-T-24 AEP (MDFL Oct. 25, 2010)]

Header information is considered materially misleading if the header:

1. Is technically accurate but includes an originating electronic mail address, domain name, or Internet Protocol address the access to which for purposes of initiating the message was obtained by means of false or fraudulent pretenses or representations; and,

2. Fails to identify accurately a protected computer used to initiate the message because the person initiating the message knowingly uses another protected computer to relay or retransmit the message for purposes of disguising its origin. [15 USC § 7704(a)(1)(A), (C)]

Furthermore, CAN-SPAM prohibits initiating a transmission of a commercial electronic mail message to a protected computer if there is actual knowledge, or knowledge fairly implied on the basis of objective circumstances, that a subject heading of the message would be likely to mislead a recipient, acting reasonably under the circumstances, about a material fact regarding the contents or subject matter of the message. [15 USC § 7704(a)(2)] 

Jonathan Foxx is president and managing director of Lenders Compliance Group, Brokers Compliance Group, Servicers Compliance Group and Vendors Compliance Group, national companies devoted to providing regulatory compliance advice and counsel to the mortgage industry. He may be contacted by phone at (516) 442-3456 or e-mail at [email protected]

Dec 17, 2014
CFPB Seeks Insight On Creating A Fairer Mortgage Market

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has been actively looking to create a fairer mortgage market, free of discriminatory engagements. To do so, it issued a Request for Information to seek input on rules implementing the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act.

Regulation and Compliance
Nov 17, 2021
Regulators Renew Effort to Protect Against Foreclosures

CFPB, The Fed, FDIC and other agencies will watch for compliance with COVID-19 protections

Regulation and Compliance
Nov 10, 2021
Fed To Begin Tapering Asset Purchases by 14.3% This Month

Also sets target range for the federal funds rate at 0 to 1/4%.

Regulation and Compliance
Nov 03, 2021
CFPB Cracks Down On Discriminatory Credit Reporting For Black And Hispanic Consumers

Consumers in majority Black and Hispanic neighborhoods are far more likely to have disputes appear on their credit reports. 

Regulation and Compliance
Nov 03, 2021
CFPB Names 2 New Assistant Directors

Former Obama Administration officials will lead Supervision Policy, Enforcement divisions.

Regulation and Compliance
Oct 29, 2021
FHFA Proposes Extra Disclosure Rules For Fannie, Freddie

The proposed rule for the Enterprise Regulatory Capital Framework seeks to put Enterprises on a "level playing field" with U.S. banking requirements.

Regulation and Compliance
Oct 28, 2021