Rogers is the latest organization to fall on the wrong side of the spam line in Canada and has agreed to pay a $200,000 fine for sending emails with non-functioning or hard to use unsubscribe functionality. I don't think Rogers is evil (they used to be a client) but I do think that they got caught with their spam pants down. If you read the release
from the CRTC you can get a few tips to help prevent you from running into problems.
- Test the unsubscribe link on the emails you send. In most cases your email service will include it automatically but accidents do happen and a rogue bit of broken HTML or CSS can mess up a lot. While you are likely to check every marketing link, don't forget the unsubscribe link
- If you change newsletter providers, keep your old provider active for at least 60 days from when you last sent an email using the service. One of the reasons for the fine was not keeping the unsubscribe link valid for 60 days. I suspect that was a change of email service or list
- If you change email providers, assign someone to stay on top of your unsubscribes on the old provider and make sure the changes get made at the new provider right away. One of the reasons for the fine was it taking longer than 10 days to stop getting emails.
- Use a single email provider and a single account to manage lists. If you run multiple lists from different departments and do any sort of cross promotion or common messaging, your unsubscribers might get confused about which lists they are still subscribed to. While this is not really your fault, it is your problem if they complain.
At this point, the inner workings of the complaint, remediation, and penalty process is a little obscure so we don't know how bad it has to be to get a fine. What I did learn (thanks to Business in Vancouver
) is that Plenty of Fish who was fined $48,000 earlier this year was responsible for only %0.03 of the 255,000+ complaints received by the CRTC up to that time. That is less than 80 complaints for an organization that sends millions of emails a week. It doesn't take much.