When it comes to letting consumers unsubscribe from their emailing lists, 10 per cent of the world’s top 200 ecommerce brands are not complying with regulations in Canada and the U.S., a new study has found.

In a study from the Online Trust Alliance (OTA), an Internet consumer rights organization, analysts found 10 per cent of the ecommerce brands surveyed don’t have a functional unsubscribe link in their messages, or they don’t remove users from their subscribers’ lists within 10 business days. Those two practices are illegal, according to the CAN-SPAM Act in the U.S., and the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) here in Canada.
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As part of their study, OTA analysts signed up for newsletters on July 28, with the goal of scoping out the marketing practices of the 200 brands tested. Almost all of these brands sent confirmation of subscription emails. Then, starting Aug. 6, the analysts began to send requests to unsubscribe, as well as follow-up emails to unsubscribe on Aug. 15, while monitoring which brands were honouring those requests until Sept. 12.

The study found 10.1 per cent of these brands violated CAN-SPAM and CASL, and about half of them continued to send email for the next two weeks, even though the analysts had requested to be unsubscribed. The analysts also sent emails to both the abuse and customer service reps at the brands, but just four responded. Two brands are still sending emails everyday, the analysts said.

However, OTA analysts also found 70 per cent of the brands they monitored actually followed eight or more of the 10 best email marketing practices that the organization has outlined, which include making opt-out text and links ‘clear and conspicuous’ in their location, giving users simple, understandable terms like ‘unsubscribe’ and ‘opt-out,’ providing an easy way to opt out of all emails, not just the specific email program being received, and so on.

Another 10 per cent of those brands actually honoured all 10 out of 10 of the best marketing practices. Some of those email marketing luminaries included AnnTaylor.com, BassPro.com, Coach.com, CrateandBarrel.com, LivingSocial.com, NastyGal.com, NineWest.com,TheBay.com, and Staples.com.

As the OTA report reminds us, there are some pretty hefty fines for violating the regulations set out by CAN-SPAM and CASL. With CASL, marketers who don’t play by the rules can be fined as much as $1 million per violation for an individual – or up to $10 million per violation for an organization. And aside from any fines that government agencies dish out, Internet service providers may blacklist email marketers who they consider to be spammers.

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