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CAN-SPAM requires that you include your physical mailing address in each and every bulk mailing such as an email newsletter or other mail to a mailing list. For some reason this requirement confuses people – maybe because it’s so straight-forward, and people are used to complex, convoluted, and contradictory (the Three Cs of legislative drafting) language when it comes to the law. So what exactly does a “physical mailing address” mean in this context?

It actually means exactly what it says it is – you must include a physical address (as compared to virtual, like web or email, address) in your mailings.

This is to help demonstrate that you are a real live company, with a real physical presence and connection to both the U.S. and the state in which you do business. It is also so people can mail you something through the postal service, for example if they want to send you registered mail, and also so that they can come and find you, for example if they need to serve you with legal documents.

In addition, a secondary confusion arose when CAN-SPAM first was passed – people wanted to know if they could use a post office box for that required address, rather than their actual street address.

At that time we advised people that even though the law did not make it clear, that if they were doing everything else right under CAN-SPAM, then it was probably safe to go ahead and use the P.O. box, because we knew that the FTC had better things to do with their limited spam-fighting budget than to go after legitimate mailers for using a P.O. box if they were otherwise doing everything else right.

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[We guess that’s one perk of having the CEO of your email deliverability company also be an Internet lawyer (one who also happened to work on the language of CAN-SPAM) – you sometimes can get free off-the-cuff legal advice!]

In any event, with the updated CAN-SPAM rules and clarifications that went into effect in May of 2016, the FTC actually confirmed our advice. So yes, straight from the horse’s mouth, you can use a P.O. box. Specifically the FTC says “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.”

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  1. I highly recommend using the PO Box, especially if your “physical address” is to your home office. A couple of years ago I had one of my subscribers show up at my back door… at night. Very unsettling. A PO Box is definitely worth the investment ;)

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