Some online retailers fail anti-spam law

22 September 2014

SEATTLE: One-in-ten of the top online retailers in North America are still violating laws introduced to protect consumers from unwanted emails, a new audit of 200 companies has warned.

Even though the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 was introduced over a decade ago, 10% of online retailers failed ten best practice measurements promoted by the Online Trust Alliance (OTA), a non-profit organisation, which conducted its review in July.

They also failed to meet the requirements of Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL), the OTA said.

OTA assessed ecommerce firms on whether they used a clear and conspicuous opt-out link, if they had unsubscribe text that is easy to read and visible, and if they immediately removed users from a subscription list once they opted out, among other benchmarks.

"Despite CAN-SPAM taking effect 10 years ago, it is disappointing that a number of the world's biggest online retailers have yet to get things right," said Craig Spiezle, executive director and president of OTA.

"On the positive side, the vast majority of email marketers are doing their part to distance themselves from spammers and thus fortify their customer relationships. Now is the time for others to follow their leadership," he added.

These positives included another 10% of ecommerce brands achieving perfect scores for best market practice while another 70% passed 8-out-of-10 measurements.

The OTA went on to identify all the online retailers whose email programs passed its audit and gave special recognition to the ones who met all 10 best practices.

These e-retailers included Belk, BodenUSA, Coach, LivingSocial, Staples and 15 others, although OTA did not name the 20 companies that failed.

John Pollack, evp of marketing, sales promotion and ecommerce at Belk, said customer care is one of the company's core values.

"Having an efficient, timely and reliable email unsubscribe process is more than a marketing practice to us," he said. "It is a way to deliver on our customer care commitment and always put the customer first."

Data sourced from OTA; additional content by Warc staff