Are Abandoned Form Emails Required to Follow CAN-SPAM Laws?

Are you concerned about sending emails that might be flagged as spam using WPForms’ Form Abandonment Addon? While following up with abandoning visitors is a great way to capture more leads, it’s important not to violate anti-spam laws in the process.

In this article, we’ll explore whether abandoned form emails are required to follow CAN-SPAM laws, and if they are, what requirements you need to know about.

The Rise of Form and Cart Abandonment

It is frustrating to see so many site visitors come to your website, get halfway through filling out a form or making a purchase, and then turn around and leave.

Tackling form abandonment and cart abandonment is something that all website owners face, whether you run a simple blog or a large eCommerce shop.

WPForms is the best WordPress Form Builder plugin. Get it for free!

It is important to understand that abandoned forms and abandoned carts are two different situations:

  • Form Abandonment. This is when a site visitor fails to complete and submit a form on your website. There is no transaction at the end of the form and includes forms such as contact forms, a request for a quote, an application, etc.
  • Cart Abandonment. This is when a customer fails to complete an order checkout form on your website, or leaves items they intended to purchase in their shopping cart without finalizing the transaction.

Nearly 60-70% of users will abandon a form. Learning how to reduce cart abandonment can really boost your revenue, and following up on form abandoners can recover a lot of lost leads.

Is your site like all the others? Make sure to check out our lists of surprising eCommerce statistics, digital marketing statistics, online form statistics, and online business statistics!

How to Reduce Form and Cart Abandonment

are cart abandonment emails spam?

The most effective way to reduce cart abandonment takes 2 steps:

  1. Use exit-intent technology to target site visitors with an opt-in form right before they leave
  2. Send out automated abandoned cart emails to entice them to complete their purchase

This strategy can help eCommerce site owners recover 60% or more in lost sales!

But what about those times you don’t have exit intent technology and your site visitors leave without completing their form or purchase?

That’s where the WPForms Form Abandonment Addon comes in handy.

With this addon, you can capture partial form entries and follow up with those prospective leads, even if they don’t complete the form or hit “submit.”

This addon works with any kind of single or multi-page form on your website, including contact forms, quote requests, user registration forms, and even order forms that end in a transaction.

So long as you have a name and an email on the partially filled out form, you can reach out to encourage your site visitors to finish what they started.

But this raises the question: are abandoned form emails spam, since they didn’t finish submitting their contact information?

Let’s take a look.

An Overview of Digital Privacy Laws

can-spam laws

How others use your personal information in this digital age is a growing concern. With the number of data breaches rising, the identity theft that comes with stolen or misused information, and the fact that nearly everything is done on the internet these days, it is no wonder people are worried their personal and financial information will get into the wrong hands.

One of the most pressing concerns among internet users is that they still don’t fully understand how the information they enter onto websites is going to be used. This is largely in part because every company has their own way of collecting different types of data and use it in different ways.

In short, it’s hard to keep up.

And, without knowing the digital privacy laws that span the globe, it is nearly impossible to identify when a website is misusing information.

What Is Being Done to Preserve Digital Privacy?

Nearly 80 countries and independent territories across the world have adopted digital privacy laws to prohibit the disclosure or misuse of information about private individuals.

More specifically, in the United States, the rules and regulations regarding data privacy can be summed up as follows:

  • All data collected must have a stated purpose
  • Any information collected cannot be disclosed to other organizations without the user’s consent
  • If your company keeps user records, they must be accurate and up to date
  • There must be ways for users to view the information that is collected about them
  • When no longer needed, all data in a user must be deleted
  • Transmitting user data to locations that are not protected is prohibited
  • In most cases, sensitive data should not be collected, such as sexual orientation or religion

It is important to keep in mind that digital privacy laws differ depending on your location and the location of your site visitors.

Ultimately, it is your responsibility to make sure your website is in compliance with digital privacy laws. The information stated above is for informational purposes only. It is designed to give you an idea about what digital privacy means and how internet users are protected from companies collecting personal information about them. This information is not for the purpose of providing legal advice.


can-spam laws and abandoned cart emails
So, you have a pretty good idea what digital privacy is and what types of actions are prohibited when it comes to collecting information about your site visitors.

But do you know what the CAN-SPAM Act is?

In short, the CAN-SPAM Act is a law that outlines how you can use site visitor information in commercial emails and messages. It also provides email recipients the right to stop you from emailing them at any time.

The CAN-SPAM laws apply to all email types and have tough penalties for anyone not following these requirements:

  • Don’t use false or misleading header information
  • Don’t use deceptive subject lines
  • Identify messages that are advertisements, as advertisements
  • Include a valid, physical address
  • Make opting out of further emails clear to recipients
  • Honor all opt-outs within 10 days
  • Monitor what other companies are doing on behalf of your company’s emails

As you can see, there are very strict regulations that must be followed when it comes to following CAN-SPAM best practices.

The crazy thing is however, it is NOT a CAN-SPAM requirement that your site visitors opt-in to receive emails from you.

Did you know adding a members-only section to your website can help explode your revenue? Check out our article on the best WordPress membership plugins to learn more.

This means that anyone that enters an email on a form on your website, and leaves without clicking “submit” is allowed to be added to your growing email list. Furthermore, you can send them as many emails as you wish until they decide to opt out.

The bottom line: abandoned cart emails, and form abandonment emails, are not considered spam.

That said, depending on the type of emails you are sending out, you may or may not have to follow the outlined CAN-SPAM rules.

When to Follow CAN-SPAM Best Practices

can-spam best practices
What matters most when determining whether you must comply with the CAN-SPAM laws is the purpose of your email message.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) of the United States breaks email content into two distinct categories:

  1. Commercial Content. If the primary purpose of your email is to advertise or promote a commercial product or service, it must comply with the CAN-SPAM laws since it is commercial in nature.
  2. Transactional or Relationship Content. If the primary purpose of your email is to facilitate an already agreed upon transaction, you are exempt from following most CAN-SPAM laws. In addition, if you are following up on a transaction, you are exempt from most CAN-SPAM provisions. The only exception is that your email content cannot contain false or misleading routing information, which includes the originating domain name and email address of the person or business initiated the email message.

And, as if that’s not enough information to digest, the FTC goes on to state that in order for an email to be transactional in nature, it must include content that fits these criteria:

  • Confirmation of a commercial transaction that the email recipient has already agreed to
  • Provides warranty, recall, safety, or security information about a product or service
  • Gives information about a change in terms or features, or account balance information about an ongoing commercial relationship such as a subscription
  • Includes information about an employment relationship or employee benefits
  • Delivers goods or services as part of a transaction the email recipient has already agreed to

In applying this information to abandoned cart emails, marketing to site visitors that have partially filled out checkout forms on your website might be considered transactional in nature. After all, they facilitate the completion of a commercial transaction that the recipient began to enter, though did not complete for some reason.

If you want to see who visits your site and from where, be sure to read our guide on how to add Google Analytics to WordPress!

On the other hand, when it comes to abandoned form emails, there is no prior transaction they agreed to. So while you are allowed to send out follow up emails to those that abandon forms on your website, you must also comply with CAN-SPAM regulations.

And there you have it! In the end, abandoned form emails are not considered spam. However, they must follow CAN-SPAM laws. In either case, it just so happens that the WPForms Form Abandonment Addon makes sending out follow up emails easy to do.

We hope this article helped you out. If you are looking for ways to improve form conversions in WordPress check out these research based methods.

And, don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more free WordPress tutorials.

Using WordPress and want to get WPForms for free?

Enter the URL to your WordPress website to install.


  1. “Marketing to site visitors that have partially filled out checkout forms on your website might be considered transactional in nature”? Really? Didn’t you just finish saying that the FTC requires a transactional email to involve “Confirmation of a commercial transaction that the email recipient has already agreed to”? An abandoned cart is not a commercial transaction the recipient has agreed to. It doesn’t meet any of the other FTC criteria either. So shouldn’t you agree it’s wrong to say, “In the end, abandoned form emails are not considered spam”?

    1. Hi James,

      Great question. Transactional or ‘relationship’ emails don’t have to follow CAN-SPAM rules. It can be argued that entering an email, even without finalizing an actual purchase, sets up a relationship in which businesses can then send emails. Plus, the emails you send in response to abandoned carts are not necessarily commercial either, so again, you don’t have to follow CAN-SPAM.

      Abandoned form emails are considered transactional or relationship emails because a relationship is formed when people enter their email into the form even though they don’t submit it. If this is the case, they don’t have to follow CAN-SPAM when sending abandoned form emails because they are not commercial in nature.

      If the purpose of the emails are to promote your product/service, and thus commercial, then they must follow CAN-SPAM rules. If the emails are meant to facilitate a transaction or relationship, then they don’t follow CAN-SPAM rules. And in either case, you don’t need consent to send the emails; you only have to follow the CAN-SPAM rules if it’s a commercial email.

      I hope this helps! 🙂

Add a Comment

We're glad you have chosen to leave a comment. Please keep in mind that all comments are moderated according to our privacy policy, and all links are nofollow. Do NOT use keywords in the name field. Let's have a personal and meaningful conversation.