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Every so often we run into a sender who has a sense of entitlement – or even righteous indignation – about how an ISP should, must – even has to – accept their email. Whether because it’s “requested” or opt-in or because it “complies with CAN-SPAM”, the sender gets all in our face about how a given ISP has a responsiblity and duty to accept their email. Sometimes they even rant that it’s required by {CAN-SPAM| tort law | the 1st Amendment | insert your favourite rant here}.

Except, that’s completely wrong. Whether it should be or not is a different discussion for a different day (although I’m sure you can figure out on which side of that argument I fall), but regardless of how you or they feel, an ISP has no obligation to accept your email.

In fact, in the U.S., our Federal anti-spam law, CAN-SPAM, specifically exempts ISPs from any liability for refusing to accept and deliver email – of any sort. Indeed, an ISP can refuse your email for any reason – or no reason at all.

That’s how it is. Accept it.

Now, all that said, the ISPs aren’t on power trips, and they don’t just discard email willy nilly.

No, the ISPs answer to an even higher authority – their users. In fact, in the vast majority of cases, when an ISP junkfolders or discards an email as ‘spam’, it’s because their users are telling them that it’s spam. Conversely, if ISPs don’t deliver email that their users want, their users will vote with their feet, and the ISP may find itself out of business.

So what’s the lesson here?

The lesson here is that ISPs want and need to deliver wanted email. But they don’t have a duty to deliver your email just because – and most especially if their users are hitting “this is spam” on your email.

It’s up to you to show the ISPs that your email isn’t spam – either on your own, or with the help of a service like ours.


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