Recently, over at SuretyMail, we rejected an applicant for email accreditation. This applicant sent emails on behalf of their clients, who in turn were sending email to their own internally developed mailing lists.

Oh, they were doing everything they were supposed to do – they thought. Their clients honoured opt-out requests, and had their physical mailing address in their emails. They were clear in their “from” address who was sending the email. In short, “we are CAN-SPAM compliant.” Note that “we are CAN-SPAM compliant” is, more often than not, a Big Red Flag that the company proclaiming their CAN-SPAM compliance – while probably truly CAN-SPAM complaint – is also spamming people six ways to Sunday. People who are truly practicing best email practices do not need to tell the world that they are CAN-SPAM complaint, because nobody would think otherwise because nobody gets spam from them. But that’s an article for another day.

Back to the applicant whom we rejected for email accreditation.

You see, the people on their mailing lists really wanted their email. At least, that was what they told us. They must want the email, after all, because they were sending them email pertaining to requests for information that the people had made on various boards and forums, right?

Whoa, back up there.

Because that’s where the problem was.

You see, this applicant’s clients – let’s assume that they were car dealers* – were finding people who had posted asking for bids on new cars on various “I’m looking for a new car” websites. And so these car dealers were submitting bids to these people. And that’s ok.

But they were also taking the email addresses of these people, and putting them on a mailing list, and sending them bulk email for other things. Oh, they were things related to cars – offers for accessories, driving lessons, maybe even ads for other cars.

But, and this is a big but – they did not have the peoples’ permission to repurpose their email address by adding it to a bulk mailing list.

These people had posted to various “car wanted” boards, and were expecting to hear from people who had a car to sell them.

But under no circumstances were they giving car dealers permission to harvest their email addresses and put them on a mailing list, car-related or otherwise.

When we challenged the applicant about this practice, they responded:

“Please note that once the poster’s bid request is downloaded to our client’s own private database, the poster may receive email(s) from the client’s other matching dealership offers. We want to reiterate that the posters do have a way to opt-out from these type of email.”

So, is this a practice which you do in your business? If so, you need to know that it is indefensible, and ISPs and spam filters will block your email as spam for doing so. And nobody will be able to help you.

It is never ok to repurpose someone’s email address – especially by putting it on a mailing list – without their express permission. Even if it were ok (which it isn’t), it will cause the recipient to mark your email as spam, and that in itself, when it happens enough, will cause your email to get blocked.

Now, an exercise for the reader: clearly these car dealers were seeing an opportunity to build their mailing lists with qualified recipients. How could they do this in a way that would be ok, and not spamming? How would (or do) you do it?

*Industry changed to protect confidentiality.

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