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Sending SPAM is Not Illegal, But That Doesn’t Make it OK

A prospect of ours recently purchased a list of email addresses and asked whether he could upload the list into MarketVolt and start sending emails to the list. Our answer was “no.”

With rare exceptions, we do not allow our clients to load purchased lists into MarketVolt. Sending to a purchased list would be unsolicited commercial email (SPAM).

The prospect countered that using this list would not violate the federal CAN-SPAM act. He was right, but we still didn’t budge. Here’s what we told the prospect to explain our policy:

Sending SPAM is Not Illegal

The CAN-SPAM act does not outlaw the sending of unsolicited commercial email. It simply dictates what a business must do when sending SPAM (include a valid mailing address in the footer; provide a clear way for people to opt-out; honor opt-out requests, etc…). In most cases, sending email to a purchased list is SPAM, but that does not violate the law — unless you fail to follow the provisions in the law.

The Law is Not the Point

Spam filters, internet service providers and blacklists are stricter than CAN-SPAM. As a result, email service providers like MarketVolt have terms of service that are stricter than CAN-SPAM. When it comes to unsolicited commercial email, “legal” doesn’t mean “OK.” Spam filters, ISPs and blacklists set their own rules for what they condone. Sending email to a purchased or scraped list — without the consent of those on the list — is something most don’t condone and most consider SPAM. You can be in total compliance with CAN-SPAM while violating the policies of those filters, ISPs, and blacklists that control your deliverability.

Why Does All of this Matter?

If you send SPAM, you significantly increase the risk of having future deliveries blocked or delayed. Spam filters and black lists actively fill the internet with “seed lists” full of fake email addresses that they monitor. Those lists get distributed by list vendors; they get placed in lead exchanges like Jigsaw; and, in some cases, the filtering companies actively enter those addresses in ESPs web forms to test whether the ESPs confirm opt-ins. There are spam filters that blacklist when you send email to just one bad address from a seed list. There are ISPs and spam filtering companies that actively monitor bounce and complaint rates for sending IPs and black list senders if those rates are too high.

This is a real, persistent issue that we face every day. We maintain great delivery rates and a strong sending reputation because we enforce our anti-spam policies and don’t allow our clients to violate those policies. If we make exceptions, we put our sending servers at risk of being blocked which puts all of our clients at risk.

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