FTC lawsuit reminds businesses: CAN-SPAM means CAN’T spam

Oh, the joy of clicking “unsubscribe” when your email inbox overflows with spam messages trying to sell you stuff you DO NOT WANT! But what if there’s no “unsubscribe” link and the emails won’t stop?

The FTC says that’s what happened to people who set up “Free Membership” accounts with Experian to manage access to their Experian credit report information online. The accounts let people “freeze” their credit to make it difficult for identity thieves to open new accounts in their name and “unfreeze” their credit to apply for a mortgage or other new credit.

But, the FTC says, the free accounts came with an extra that many people didn’t want — emails from Experian pitching its credit card offers, credit score services, auto-related products and services, and upsells for its paid membership programs. According to the FTC, Experian sent the emails even to people who opted out of getting its marketing emails, falsely claiming the email “contains important information about your account.” What was missing from the messages? The FTC says the emails didn’t include a way for people to opt out of getting them, in violation of the CAN-SPAM Act.

Experian Consumer Services agreed to pay a $650,000 civil penalty and comply with the CAN-SPAM Act to settle an FTC lawsuit. The CAN-SPAM Act gives you the right to stop companies from sending you email that primarily advertises commercial products or services. Among other things, it requires companies that send marketing emails to include a clear and conspicuous notice that you have the right to opt out of getting future marketing emails. They also must give you an “unsubscribe” link or other internet-based way to opt out.

If you get unwanted marketing emails, opt out of getting them. The company must honor your request within 10 business days. If there’s no way to opt out or if you still get unwanted email from the company after 10 business days, tell the FTC at

By: Seena Gressin, Attorney, Division of Consumer and Business Education, FTC

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