Account suspended due to spam complaints... harsh?

Hello,

We have been a CM customer for a considerable time and have lots of clients using it and we love it. We have sent millions of emails and never had a spam problem.

However, today we had all our client accounts suspended due to an unacceptable level of spam on one campaign by one client.

To put this into perspective the client emailed 5919 people and got 54 spam complaints. This was the first campaign they had sent so the lists had not been used for several months.

I FULLY support the need to monitor and act on spam complaints that are higher than average but my point for discussion is this......

Is it right to cut off our entire account because of one client?

If it was a silly level of spam then OK something serious needs doing. But in this case perfectly good clients who never abuse the system were being informed they were suspended due to unacceptable levels of spam because of a less than 1% ratio on a different clients campaign.

I don't want to knock CM or it's policies on spam but is there a better way to handle this touchy topic? Maybe cutting access to the client I question rather than them all?

By the way, big thanks to Diana in support who helped us get access back quickly once we had suspended access to the client in question.

Your opinions please.

BThies BThies, 7 years ago

I completely agree, and this happened just the other day.

I had sent 18,000 emails out for a client (6 campaigns at 3,000 emails each) over a period of a month, and saw no spam issues.  A few days ago, spam reports hit all 6 campaigns at one time, and BAM, account was deactivated.  (average was about 20-25 spam complaints per 3,000, or about 0.47% of all emails sent).  Now had I seen a high rate of spam complaints from the first campaign, I would've cut that client off immediately.  However, the spam complaints hit at once, and again, a month after sending the first campaign.

Think about how embarrasing it'd be for a client to try and log in to send their campaign, only to find the entire service had been shut down.  UGH.  I immediately sent an email to support explaining what happened.

SO

With that all being said, and since we deal only in B2B emails, we've made a decision on our side to no longer support/send to large lists (over 200) that contain AOL, Hotmail, etc. types of emails (we'll remove them from the list for the customer)  The "Mark As Spam" button is too easily accessible, and gets used way too often.  That, and the anti-spam houses around the world look at these complaints as the holy grail of "catching the spammer"..... even though the emails we've sent FULLY comply with CAN SPAM 2004 law requirements.

I feel bad that CM has their servers put at risk by these idiots, and it's a shame we have to pay by having our service disrupted.  I do strongly agree, that each account should be reviewed case by case before a determination is made to shut the entire thing down.  Otherwise you'll end up pushing good paying clients to other services.

Thanks to Diana as well for getting our account up and running again immediately after sending in an urgent email request.


Brian Thies
Professional Email Developer
Thies Publishing
Dave Dave, 7 years ago

Thanks so much for the feedback guys, and apologies if the experience came off as harsh. Most of the time an account is closed, it's due to a client misleading the account owner, and in all of those cases we're happy to reinstate the account provided the client is removed.

We originally left this as nothing but a warning, but unfortunately most customers ignored those warnings and continued to get high spam complaints and cause deliverability problems for everyone. Because of this, we changed the approach to account closure and it dramatically reduced the rates of repeat incidents.

Rest assured, if it's clear you are the good guys and this was just a one off mistake, we'll always re-open your account. Usually the moment a clear explanation is provided.

Of course, this process certainly isn't set in stone, and we'll consider this feedback for any future changes to the spam complaint process.

BThies BThies, 7 years ago

Dave,

My account, again, has been disabled due to the exact same customer's old campaigns.  Apparently your system decided to pop up "high number of spam complaints" days after the first message came out about their campaigns.

This is completely unacceptable to continue to shut an entire account down due to one problem customer, especially when the customer was already dealt with and removed.

I strongly urge your company to review its policies and come up with a better way to handle these situations.

Brian


Brian Thies
Professional Email Developer
Thies Publishing
SelectMailer SelectMailer, 7 years ago

Thanks for the response Dave.

Would it not be possible to remove access to the offending client rather than the whole of our account?

We can do that in our console so I guess it wouldn't be difficult for you to disable us being able to add them back as having access until we can clear up why they have been naughty ;-)


********************************************
SelectMailer www.selectmailer.com
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Mathew Mathew, 7 years ago

Unfortunately it is not as clear cut as it can seem - while we can technically just shut down the client, there are too many cases where the designer is actually responsible for the problem (either sending their own campaigns or having not explained to any of their clients about permission).

In order to protect the ability of all our other customers to send, we do need to take immediate action to prevent further problems. It's also the case that actual spammers try to abuse our systems, and shutting down just one client in their account doesn't prevent them sending through other clients.

So we're always trying to walk a fine line between supporting the designers who are doing the right thing, like you guys, and preventing our servers being blacklisted.

As Dave mentioned, if we investigate and find out just one client is the issue, and the account owner is otherwise following all the rules, we're happy to reinstate it.

Brian, regarding your " your system decided to pop up "high number of spam complaints" days after the first message came out about their campaigns" - this is an automated system that just picks up complaints and triggers the warnings and closures at certain points.

We have far too many customers to manually check these in advance (as you can imagine) but we're always looking for ways to improve the system. Sorry for the hassle, it sucks that we have to inconvenience good customers because of other people's mistakes.


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vince, 7 years ago

Brian, did you have all you clients disabled again, even when the complaints are due to the exact same customer's old campaigns - that has already been de-activated?.

Surely CM, that can be avoided by a few tweaks to your current automated system?

BThies BThies, 7 years ago

Happened three times. Twice after the client's sub account had been deleted/deactivated.  (this is my first post about the third one)

This last time was earlier this week, and I didn't know about it until one of my other clients emailed me stating "did we do something wrong?  Our account is saying we've been shut down due to abuse".

Now THAT'S embarrassing.  Why the other sub accounts would see a message stating they they can't send emails due to abuse is beyond me.  The process is simply not setup to accommodate sub accounts at this point, and I'm thinking of shifting clients to other 3rd party programs.

A simple way to prevent this embarrassment is to display a message to the sub accounts stating "There's an issue with the service at this time, please contact your administrator" - and have it provide particular contact information we'd like displayed.  Also, I never received any email notification telling me that there was a problem with the main account.  Leaving it to customers to notify us is the wrong way to do business.   It's all about user experience, and this is an area where the ball is being dropped.


Brian Thies
Professional Email Developer
Thies Publishing
Dave Dave, 7 years ago

Thanks for sharing your experiences here guys, that's much appreciated. We're looking at ways we can improve this process and especially not expose any of it to your clients. BThies, your suggestion about showing an alternate message to your clients is a great idea and one I'll definitely be proposing to the team.

sagalout, 7 years ago

We haven't had an account suspended, but one or two campaigns have gone over the threshold.  I have no confidence in the reporting though. 

One client we have knows all of his customers personally, and two of them (both AOL) apparently submitted spam reports. Its only a very small list so it made his spam percentage high, so he phoned them up to ask why and they both said that they never submitted it as spam, and asked to be put back on the subscriber list.  So either AOL are falsely reporting, or the button is so big people are clicking it by mistake.

BThies BThies, 7 years ago

As a previous AOL and Yahoo mail user years and years ago, I remember how easy it was to see a list of 40-50 emails in my InBox, and if I didn't recognize a name off the bat - i'd hit the "Mark As Spam" button on all of it.  There were times were I accidentally hit it on a few and had to retrieve them.

Why any ISP would consider using that data is beyond me...


Brian Thies
Professional Email Developer
Thies Publishing
Mathew Mathew, 7 years ago

Spam is a huge problem for everyone, and because ISPs get so many complaints they have to take pretty drastic steps. Once they do that, we are also forced to take drastic steps to ensure we can still deliver.

It really does suck, and the root cause is real spammers, not people with legitimate lists. We understand that and we always review complaints, and have built in thresholds that take into account people who complain without knowing the impact it can have.


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tdelam, 7 years ago

I STRONGLY agree with BThies here... Outright suspending an account like this is unethical. I am all for stopping spam but this is just insane.

If this were my software I would consider some code to be a bit more forgiving if there are a number of hotmail/aol/yahoo mail.. etc accounts. It's known that the people who use those services just click through emails marking anything as spam. I would too considering the amount of actual spam that comes into those inboxes, its much easier marking as spam and let the service organize my inbox than applying a filter... IMO this should have been something thought out prior to launching CM. When reading through this thread it sounds to me there was no real plan in place so you just outright kick the user from using the account as a solution, that's just a poor design...

Anyway, can I get a refund on my remaining credits now that we're on lockdown?

tdelam, 7 years ago

To confirm... everyone who marked it as spam were hotmail users and 1 AOL user, all of whom opt-in to our mailings... couple of things are very annoying and uncontrollable; obviously hotmail gets littered with spam in return annoys the user who will mark everything as spam because it resides before "Delete". Because of the enormous amount of spam in hotmail accounts the user is very adamant to clicking into any email that is not from their family or friends, even though they've opted in to receive information... Now why isn't there a forgiving rule in your software for users of this nature is beyond me, which leads me to wonder why did I pay $5 to run spam and design tests? what was i actually testing against? were they accurate?

Mathew Mathew, 7 years ago

We've mentioned this earlier, but we do certainly have a safety factor to take into account that some people just click 'mark as spam'. You will never get closed for just a small number of complaints.

However, if your account is closed it means you have received far more than the normal amount of complaints, more than other people who are also sending to lists with Hotmail subscribers. It is at that point we need to take action to prevent our own servers being banned.

The spam testing system can only check against automated filters, it can't check against how actual people will respond to your email.


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zombyboy, 7 years ago

The mailing that I did yesterday (a bit more than 13,000 names) and there are already 4 spam marks. These people have all opted in to our mailings, I've had a good number of folks emailing me back to update some bit of information and even a few emailing to thank me for sending the mailing, I have a decent open and click-through rate, and I'm still worried that I might bump up against that limit and have my service suspended.

What I find annoying is that every one who has marked it as spam has been a hotmail user. I'm seriously considering supressing all hotmail accounts and wondering if I should do the same for AOL since I regularly hear about similar issues.

I love the service and I'm certainly not complaining about keeping spammers off the servers--CM would be useless to me if it lost its white list status. So, by all means, do what you have to in keeping the place clean, but I'm feeling paranoid about this and would hate to get caught out. I actually talked the owner of the company I work for into moving all of our bulk emailing to CM because I liked the tools, the service, and the company.

Suggestions? Thoughts?

Mathew Mathew, 7 years ago

One thing to keep in mind: You will always see more complaints from Hotmail / AOL mostly because they are huge, and they also have feedback loops that mean we can integrate the 'mark as spam' directly into your reports.

Other email clients have spam buttons, but we don't know when people click them. I can tell you that compared to the number of people sending campaigns without significant problems, very few people get banned from Campaign Monitor.

If you are following all the guidelines, permission reminders etc, you may well still get some complaints, and we understand that, but you're unlikely to get a huge number.


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inspiration, 7 years ago

We sent out a campaign (my first) and did almost all of the things recommended (that we could as a first mailing) including design, clear explanation at the top of the email, etc. All our names were gathered from our website from people interested, however many of them are a few years old. I would expect many people to no longer be interested, but they did sign up/opt in for this.

What confuses me is that the numbers CM is posting don't make sense to me: We're showing a spam rate of 0.60% (at 174 emails marked as spam) for a campaign of 42,700 emails. How is this calculated? Even if they're using just opened emails 3800 (our numbers were horrible) that still doesn't equal 0.60%.

What's a guy to do now?

jparent, 7 years ago

I had the same problem and I want to know how I can get back my account. Could you help me please. I got numbers of clients using your platform. I want to know if I must seek for an other service or if you can look at what happend and understand that it was the first time on more than a year use.

Thanks for your help.

Jonathan (username : hatem)

inspiration, 7 years ago

I read through all the CM permissions page suggestions (http://www.campaignmonitor.com/resources/entry/558/about-permission/). Here's something I have a question about: we've emailed many (if not all) all of them within the last two years for other offers and business communication. They've heard from us before.

The change is that this email campaign used one of CM's very nice templates, and had a LOT more content and graphics. It was prettier, but it was also way MORE in content and size. Our other emails have been almost all text. We also set up an email address called "promotions@ourbizname" to show in the reply to. Again, more professional but less personal.

How much do you think this is affecting our "spam" statistics?

Pangdene, 7 years ago

I'm on the edge of deciding which system to use with my clients.
Having read all of this thread, I am now s**t scared about the way this all works!

It's late and I'm tired and I probably missed something in a post, but why on Earth doesn't the system work like this -

1. A list reports as excessive spam for whatever reason.
2. CM suspend JUST THAT LIST, not the whole account
3. CM notify the account owner of the list being suspended
4. The account owner can then review the findings with their client & CM to ascertain the issues and rectify them

It just seems insane to me that the whole account gets shut down and the account holder is severely embarrassed in front of ALL his other clients - madness!
The other clients then have a bad experience and go somewhere else; hey presto, we all loose business & our reputation (not CM) suffers!

I would welcome a response from CM as to why it's done this way, as so far I don't believe that I've seen one that satisfactorily explains why the account owner is 'crucified' in this way.
Please don't extol the reasons behind keeping spam out of the system (that's obvious); it's the process which is glaringly at fault!

If this post sounds strong, it's because I've been searching for the right solution for months, I have clients ready yo go, I find CM and now it all looks too risky...

:(

Dave Dave, 7 years ago

Pandene, thanks for sharing your thoughts. We certainly agree that an entire account closure can be a little extreme in some circumstances (and it others it's 100% the right thing to do - trust me on that one).

We'll review this process internally this week and post an update here on the best way to move forward. As I've mentioned many times, if a good explanation is provided then 99% of the time an account will be re-opened.

They key here is about how this impacts our resellers. If one client is misbehaving, why should you be put in such a difficult situation with the rest of your clients. We hear you loud and clear on that one, and will do our best to make any changes we can to minimize the chances of this happening.

I appreciate everyones honest and very constructive feedback. Well do what we can to make this work for everyone. More soon.

reza, 7 years ago

Hi,

We have started using your system and I am very impressed and one of my customers have uploaded bad data and now the account is blocked.
We have informed the client about this and disabled their access

Now I got a message that my account is suspended and what is the process to get back reinstated? this was our first active client and now we are in the s*t because of their actions what can we do?

Stig Stig, 7 years ago

Hi reza,

email us, and we'll have a look at what happened.

Stig


The Campaign Monitor Blog – HTML email smarts to go with your good looks.
reza, 7 years ago

Hi Stig,

Thank you for your prompt reply and I sent you an email
Can you let us know what we can do?

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