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Privacy, approval and spam complaints

By using the email marketing software you agree to the following, which is required by our Terms of Use.

Permission guidelines

There is a big difference between having access to a list of email addresses, and having permission to send email to that list.

The following examples address some of the most common ways that email addresses are obtained and collected and whether they comply with our Permission Guidelines. It does not constitute legal advice nor advice on compliance with the laws and regulations of your or your recipients’ country.

I bought / rented / received a 100% opt-in list from a reputable list broker

NONo matter what the list broker claims, you cannot use any kind of third party list with this software. There is no situation where it would be allowed, even if you didn’t pay for it or for industry-specific lists – it still does not qualify as permission in this context.

Everyone signed up through a mailing list in my shop / via my website

YESThat’s clear, direct permission. Just make sure you:

  • only send them what you promised you would
  • don’t wait months to email people for the first time
  • don’t wait months between sending emails

It is very common for people to forget about mailing lists they joined. That’s why it’s important to stay on target with the content you’re sending and be consistent with the regularity of your emails.

These are all existing customers / clients from my shop / website

MAYBEIf they are current or recent customers / clients, meaning they have purchased or engaged within the last year or so, you are safe to assume an existing ongoing relationship.

If it’s a lot longer than a year, and you have not been emailing them regularly, then it is a no-go zone. Permission does not last forever – use it or lose it.

This mailing list is a few years old, but everyone signed up through my website / on my stand / in my shop

MAYBEPermission goes stale quickly. If you haven’t emailed these people in the last year or so, they have probably forgotten about you, or may not be interested anymore.

You should start with a simple reminder email, asking them to unsubscribe if they are no longer interested.

We sponsored a trade show / conference / event and got a list of everyone who attended

NOThis is very common, but it does not count as permission. The people on those lists may have agreed to hear from every vendor as part of their entry, but it is not explicit, direct permission for your company to start emailing them.

Trade show and conference attendee lists are not allowed to be used with this software, even if the event organizer tells you it is fine.

We sponsored a trade show / conference / event and people signed up on our stand to get our newsletter

YESMuch better! Those people know who you are, and have specifically shown their interest in hearing from you.

Don’t wait too long after the event to email them, and make sure to remind them how they signed up in the first email.

These people all contacted me through my website

NOSending in a question, enquiry or comment isn’t the same thing as opt-in permission. Even if your website form says “send me more information” it does not mean you can add them to a mailing list. It means you can send them specific information as requested.

Unless your contact form clearly displays the option to opt-in to the mailing list, and people do freely opt-in, you do not have permission.

They registered for my site / forum / free Wi-Fi and agreed to the privacy policy / terms of use

MAYBEThat’s good, but it isn’t explicit opt-in. If they ticked an empty checkbox (it cannot be pre-ticked) explicitly stating that they agree to receive your newsletter, then that’s an opt-in.

However, hiding a line in your terms and conditions or privacy policy about receiving email, and making people agree to that is not considered opting-in. In our experience, doing things this way results in spam complaints and encourages people to sign up with fake email addresses, stopping your message reaching inboxes.

We all know that most people never read those documents, so put the opt-in right on the sign up page instead, or you do not truly have their permission.

These are all my colleagues / business associates

MAYBEUnfortunately it doesn’t give you permission to email them without an agreed opt-in from them. This could be as simple as asking them if it’s okay to add them to your list.

We know they probably won’t mind even if you don’t ask, but that is not the same thing as opt-in, and is still not allowed.

They are in the member directory of my local business chamber / industry association / trade association

NOEven when the organisation itself says that people listed in the directory can be emailed, this does not qualify as a direct opt-in and the email addresses cannot be used in this software.

If you have talked to individuals in the member directory, and they have given you their direct permission, then you can add them to a mailing list.

I just started a new company, I’m emailing all the customers of my current company

MAYBEIn almost all cases this is not permitted. Permission isn’t permanent or flexible. Those people gave you permission in a particular context, relating to the company you worked for at the time and its product or service. They did not sign up to hear about other companies, even if you are involved in or associated with them.

They are all group members / followers / fans from LinkedIn / Facebook etc

NOThat’s an indication of interest, but it is not direct opt-in. They might want to have some connection to you but you cannot assume they want to be on your email list unless they actually ask and specifically opt-in.

We ran a competition and these are all the people who entered

MAYBEBe very careful with this one. Competition lists like this often cause spam complaints. If people give you their email address just to win a prize, the only thing you can email them about is the competition, to let them know who won the prize.

You don’t have permission to send marketing content to them on any other topic. Hiding a sentence along the lines of “you agree to be emailed forever” in the terms and conditions does not count as permission.

It is different if you promote the opportunity to win a prize by signing up to the newsletter. Then people know they will be emailed – and will be expecting to be able to unsubscribe easily if they don’t like what you’re sending them.

They all bought something from my eBay store

NOThis is a special case because, although they are your customers, eBay shoppers do not expect to get email from the people they buy from. The permission shoppers have granted in regard to sharing their email address is strictly linked to transaction purposes.

So unless your eBay customers sign up directly for your newsletter, their email address cannot be used in this system.

We’re an employment agency and these are all of our candidates / employers

MAYBEYou can send email to your own customers, meaning the people who have employed your agency’s recruitment service, but there is a distinct difference between your customer and the job candidates.

You must receive a candidate’s direct permission; a clear opt-in either verbally or electronically. A reference to newsletters in their contract or included in the terms of your site does not equal permission to send.

Approval

To ensure a reliable service with great deliverability we need to make sure that everyone sending emails through the system is doing so with permission from people on the receiving end.

The approval process is how we check in to make sure everyone is sticking to best practice.

A first-time approval for new accounts, can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days to be processed. Please note, notification to start an approval is not given until an email has been set up and the recipient list(s) selected.

How the approval process works

Our team will review your email collection methods to make sure they comply with our anti-spam policy and permission guidelines. We also look at campaign content to ensure subscribers are getting what they opted in for, and can easily opt out if they no longer want the emails.

Our system for doing approvals is a tiered structure based on the number of subscribers your email campaigns are sent to. Every account starts on the same tier, which is an approved “send limit” of somewhere between 5,000 and 9,000 recipients per campaign. We do not reveal the exact send limit for approval tiers because it helps reduce the risk of abuse from people attempting to send without permission.

Typically the only time you’d go through this process is when you’d like to send a campaign to more people than you’ve already been approved for. When that happens a notification is displayed at the top of the campaign snapshot page, as shown here:

Email campaigns that trigger an approval cannot be sent until our compliance team have completed the review process. If successful, your send limit is increased to the next approval tier and you should not expect another approval notice for some time.

There are other situations in which you might need to go through an extra approval process, such as an abnormally high bounce or complaint rate, but the procedure is much the same and our team will help you through it.

Turnaround time for approvals

We have compliance team members dedicated to handling approvals. The longest it should take after it’s been submitted for approval is 12 hours. From there, the review process is often completed within a few hours if you’ve provided all the information we need.

Tips for faster processing

Approvals don’t come around that often but they can pop up unexpectedly if you don’t notice that your campaign sizes are nearing the approved send limit.

To avoid any delays it’s worthwhile preparing for approvals early, especially if you send time-sensitive campaigns like event promotions or sales announcements. See our checklist for approvals for information on what to prepare.

Start the approval process without delay

We say this because, as soon as you submit a response for approval, that’s when your campaign is added to our ‘approvals pending’ queue where it can be actioned by the next available team member.

However, you should only hurry to submit a response if you are adequately prepared. We have to be thorough with every approval. If you haven’t given us enough information to work with, the first thing we’ll do is reply to your first response with more questions, pushing you further down the queue.

Make final campaign changes later

It’s safe to start the approval process even if your campaign is not quite ready to send. A successful approval will not automatically send the campaign, so you can make final changes after we’ve notified you of approval.

We do need to see final draft content for the review process so your campaign should be as close to what you intend to send as possible.

How to start the approval process

When the number of recipients selected for a campaign exceeds your current approved send limit, a notification will be displayed above the campaign snapshot. That’s the page displayed immediately after you’ve set up an email campaign and selected a subscriber list, or lists, to send it to.

Clicking Start the approval process will load a form page that looks like this:

On the left is an editable text area where we need you to write an explanation about how the campaign recipients opted in.

When you’ve written a response (see our tips below) and made sure your campaign is approval ready, click Send Message to start the approval. This will immediately add your campaign to the queue for pending approvals so our first available team member can pick it up.

Checklist for starting the approval process

This section is to help you get your campaign approval completed with as few interactions as possible. The turnaround time can be really fast if you have all bases covered before starting the approval.

Conditions of use

Every campaign is required to meet our terms of use which include:

  • A single-click unsubscribe link that instantly removes the subscriber from your list.
  • The name and physical address of the sender.

You must also comply with all applicable legal requirements for the country you’re sending from and countries you’re sending to.

Proof of permission

To start the approval process you need to submit a permission explanation. Use the following checklist to make sure your response covers everything we need to know:

  • Read our our permission guidelines and make sure your mailing list meets those guidelines.
  • List all the different ways you’ve collected email addresses. For example, did some come from in-store sign ups, and some on your website?
  • Provide either written or digital proof of permission, for example: URLs for online subscribe forms, scanned copies of offline signups, copies of confirmed opt-in by personal email correspondence.
  • Be descriptive and specific about the actions subscribers took to opt in. Telling us, “They signed up at trade shows and in our store” is good, but it’s not enough. We need to know exactly how or why they signed up at those places.
  • For offline signups, explain in detail how people actually joined. For example, did they verbally agree to be added to your list at a conference, or sign a form during a business meeting?
  • If your recipients are existing customers/clients, tell us how long ago they were customers/clients, and how often you’ve emailed them since they purchased from/last engaged with you.

Content approval

Proof of permission is integral to the approval process but campaign content is equally important. That’s because, even if your entire mailing list is confirmed opt-in you can still receive spam complaints from subscribers. If that happens, we have to deal with the repercussions of spam complaints, which is why we need to see your content.

We’ll get back to you after the initial review if any campaign changes are required. Your best bet for reducing the time it could take to make changes is to be aware of the campaign do’s and don’ts:

Do:

  • Include a permission reminder that clearly explains to the recipient how or why they’re receiving your emails.
  • Clearly identify who you are. The “From” name and email address should accurately identify the person or business sending the email, and your subject line should make it clear to subscribers what you’re sending to them.

Do not:

  • Send information about third party products or services instead of your products or services. A line in the small print saying, “I’ll occasionally email you stuff from affiliates and other third parties” says you’re at least trying to be honest about it but the fact is no one reads the fine print and it will not stop people clicking the “spam” button.
  • Make your unsubscribe link difficult to find or use, for example a multi-step unsubscribe process or asking people to enter their email address to unsubscribe.
  • Send content that resembles spam, such as subject lines full of “FREE! WIN! SALE!” or image-heavy campaigns with very little text content.
  • Load your campaign with features about sporting goods and equipment, for example, when your signup page promoted homewares and kitchen appliances.

Content and sender details aside, you can also annoy people by sending content more frequently than you said you would, or so infrequently that recipients can’t remember who you are.

Successfully passing the approval process will not automatically send your campaign. So it’s safe to start an approval even if you’re not quite ready to send.

Why we do approvals

We can’t ensure that all contacts added to subscriber lists have stated their consent to be emailed. The repercussions of sending to lists where permission is unclear, or non-existent can include: blacklistings, spam complaints and lowered email deliverability.

This doesn’t just affect your ability to deliver to the inbox. It also impacts others using the system because it damages our sender reputation and relationships with ISPs.

We understand the approval process can be frustrating if you’re not prepared for it, but it’s safe to say you would not want us to overlook another customer’s mailing list which could be non-compliant. Another customer’s mistake could result in your email campaigns bouncing due to our sending IPs getting blacklisted.

Frequently asked questions

Below are some answers to questions we’re commonly asked about the approvals process.

How often will I need to be approved?

This is entirely dependent on the growth of campaign sizes, meaning the number of recipients each email is being sent to. The send limit difference (meaning the number of recipients you’re allowed to send to) from one approval tier to the next is in the thousands.

Typically you will only need approval when the number of recipients for a campaign send nearly doubles in size.

Why do I need approval for subscriber lists I’ve been sending to for ages?

Approvals are triggered when the number of recipients selected for a campaign exceeds the current send limit you are approved for. There are two reasons why an approval may be required for an existing list:

  • The subscriber list has grown over time, or new subscribers have just been imported, which has tipped the list over the last approved send limit. The list growth itself won’t trigger an approval, but next time a campaign is set up — and a larger list of recipients is selected to send to — that will.
  • You have multiple lists which, in total, exceed the send limit but all lists are not usually sent to at once. The first time multiple lists are selected, and the number of recipients exceeds the current send limit, it will trigger an approval.

When we do an approval that includes recipients you’re already sending to, we review subscriber activity so we can advise you on the current health of your list.

What email address will you use to contact me about approvals?

All account emails are sent to your account email address. If you have multiple account administrators, emails will be sent to the primary contact.

Account suspension due to spam complaints

If any emails sent from your account receive an above average number of spam complaints, it will result in your account being automatically suspended. You’ll still be able to log in to your account, but you won’t be able to send any emails until the issue is resolved. If it can’t be resolved, your account will be permanently closed.

This article is to provide some information on how and why account suspensions happen, and to let you know what to expect if you find yourself in this situation.

Acceptable limits for complaints

Our spam complaint rate limit is 0.5%, which is very high for industry standards. That’s why we start sending you warning emails well before you reach that percentage, and why accounts are automatically suspended when that limit is exceeded.

A spam complaint is recorded when one of your recipients reports your email as spam. Complaint rates are monitored through our system and calculated as a percentage of all the delivered emails for a single campaign.

Industry standard for spam complaints is less than 0.02%. That’s about one complaint for every 5,000 recipients.

Spam complaint thresholds are based on industry standards established by internet service providers (ISPs).

Why complaint rates matter

Besides affecting your deliverability, receiving spam complaints also impacts others using this system because it damages our relationships with ISPs, such as Gmail, Outlook, Comcast, AOL.

As an email service provider (ESP) we need to stop potential issues which can damage the reputation of our sending IPs, or the application itself. If enough of our customers are reported as spammers, we can be added to blacklists which makes deliverability harder for everyone.

Warning emails

When our system detects higher-than-normal complaint rates for a particular email, it triggers warning emails to be sent:

  • First warning: If you send an email that receives more than a 0.2% complaint rate, we’ll send an initial warning to let you know which email it is, as well as advice to help you address the situation.
  • Second warning: If complaints continue to be received for the same email, we’ll contact you again.
  • Account suspension: A third email is sent if complaints exceed 0.5%. This is to notify you that your account has been suspended. To appeal the suspension you’ll need to contact our compliance team.

We understand that even legitimate senders get complaints so, provided you are doing the right thing, don’t be alarmed if you get a warning email.

We recommend reviewing your email marketing procedure even after the first warning email because, if complaints do result in account suspension, you’ll need to work with our compliance team to help investigate the situation before we can allow you to start sending again.

Account access during suspension

During an account suspension you will still be able to log in to your account and access your data, for example, view reports or export subscriber lists, but sending is disabled until your account is reactivated.

Suspension review process

If your account is suspended we will have already emailed the primary contact for your account, with instructions on how to proceed. A suspension does not mean that you are a spammer, but it does indicate significant problems with your email marketing program that need to be addressed.

Here are some things our compliance team will require from you to review the case:

  • The email campaign itself, to see if it has a clear relevance to the recipients.
  • As much detail as you can provide about the email and the list, or lists, it was sent to. Information about how people opted-in is essential.
  • Evidence that you have followed our permission guidelines and Terms of Use.

Account suspension due to spam complaints

If any emails sent from your account receive an above average number of spam complaints, it will result in your account being automatically suspended. You’ll still be able to log in to your account, but you won’t be able to send any emails until the issue is resolved. If it can’t be resolved, your account will be permanently closed.

This information is to provide some detail on how and why account suspensions happen, and to let you know what to expect if you find yourself in this situation.

Acceptable limits for complaints

Our spam complaint rate limit is 0.5%, which is very high for industry standards. That’s why we start sending you warning emails well before you reach that percentage, and why accounts are automatically suspended when that limit is exceeded.

A spam complaint is recorded when one of your recipients reports your email as spam. Complaint rates are monitored through our system and calculated as a percentage of all the delivered emails for a single campaign.

Industry standard for spam complaints is less than 0.02%. That’s about one complaint for every 5,000 recipients.

Spam complaint thresholds are based on industry standards established by internet service providers (ISPs).

Why complaint rates matter

Besides affecting your deliverability, receiving spam complaints also impacts others using this email marketing system because it damages our relationships with ISPs, such as Gmail, Outlook, AOL etc.

As an email service provider (ESP) we need to stop potential issues which can damage the reputation of our sending IPs, or the application itself. If enough of our customers are reported as spammers, we can be added to blacklists which makes deliverability harder for everyone.

Warning emails

When our system detects higher-than-normal complaint rates for a particular email, it triggers warning emails to be sent:

  • First warning: If you send an email that receives more than a 0.2% complaint rate, we’ll send an initial warning to let you know which email it is, as well as advice to help you address the situation.
  • Second warning: If complaints continue to be received for the same email, we’ll contact you again.
  • Account suspension: A third email is sent if complaints exceed 0.5%. This is to notify you that your account has been suspended. To appeal the suspension you’ll need to contact our compliance team.

We understand that even legitimate senders get complaints so, provided you are doing the right thing, don’t be alarmed if you get a warning email.

We recommend reviewing your email marketing procedure even after the first warning email because, if complaints do result in account suspension, you’ll need to work with our compliance team to help investigate the situation before we can allow you to start sending again.

Account access during suspension

During an account suspension you will still be able to log in to your account and access your data, for example, view reports or export subscriber lists, but sending is disabled until your account is reactivated.

Suspension review process

If your account is suspended we will have already emailed the primary contact for your account, with instructions on how to proceed. A suspension does not mean that you are a spammer, but it does indicate significant problems with your email marketing program that need to be addressed.

Here are some things our compliance team will require from you to review the case:

  • The email campaign itself, to see if it has a clear relevance to the recipients.
  • As much detail as you can provide about the email and the list, or lists, it was sent to. Information about how people opted-in is essential.
  • Evidence that you have followed our permission guidelines and Terms of Use.