Building Trust 17 September 2014

Majority of Retailers are Enabling Consumers to Easily Opt out of Email, Yet Others Are Violating CAN-SPAM

SEATTLE—The Online Trust Alliance (OTA), the non-profit with the mission to enhance online trust, revealed today results of an OTA audit of which ecommerce sites are enabling consumers to easily opt out of email lists. OTA reported that 70 percent of the top 200 online retailers have moved beyond compliance and are demonstrating a commitment to user empowerment and control of their inboxes. The merchants passed the audit by implementing at least eight out of 10 of what OTA considers unsubscribe best practices.

Not all news was encouraging however. OTA found that 10 percent of the retailers are in in violation of the U.S. CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 and Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL). Both laws help to protect consumers from abuse by establishing mandatory standards for the dissemination of commercial email.

“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.”

“Being relentless with customer care is one of the core values that defines Belk,” said Jon Pollack, EVP of marketing, sales promotion and ecommerce at Belk—one of the retailers that scored 100 percent. “Having an efficient, timely and reliable email unsubscribe process is more than a marketing practice to us. It is a way to deliver on our customer care commitment and always put the customer first.”

Industry Leaders Embrace Unsubscribe Best Practices

OTA named in its report all the retailers whose email programs passed the audit—giving special recognition to those merchants who implemented all 10 unsubscribe best practices as listed below.

Ecommerce Sites Scoring 100%       







Evaluation Criteria
The OTA unsubscribe best practices were developed based on feedback resulting from OTA’s public call for comments in May 2014. Leading marketers and consumer advocates reviewed these comments, coming up with the top ten unsubscribe best practices. In late July 2014, OTA researchers signed up for and subsequently opted out of all 200 retailers’ mailing lists, evaluating retailers on both regulatory compliance and adoption of these best practices.

The best practices that OTA scored retailers on included using a clear and conspicuous opt-out link, having unsubscribe text that is easy to read and visible, immediately removing consumers from a subscription list once they opt out, and providing users the option to unsubscribe, opt-down or make other changes to marketing emails.  (Complete list of best practices)  

Findings Review
OTA will review its findings with companies in an open forum on Wednesday, Sept. 17 at 5 PM EDT at Sailthru headquarters at 160 Varick Street in New York. Media are invited to attend. To register for the briefing and networking event, click here.

On Tuesday, Sept. 30, OTA will host a webinar to discuss the findings at 9 AM PDT / Noon EDT.  Register


About OTA: 

The Online Trust Alliance (OTA) is a non-profit with the mission to enhance online trust and user empowerment while promoting innovation and the vitality of the Internet. Its goal is to help educate businesses, policy makers and stakeholders while developing and advancing best practices and tools to enhance the protection of users’ security, privacy and identity. OTA supports collaborative public-private partnerships, benchmark reporting, and meaningful self-regulation and data stewardship. Its members and supporters include leaders spanning the public policy, technology, ecommerce, social networking, mobile, email and interactive marketing, financial, service provider, government agency and industry organization sectors.

Related resources

Building Trust 8 October 2019

OTA’s Trust Audit Scores U.S. Presidential Candidates’ Campaigns, Finds Major Failures in Privacy Statements

Reston, VA. – October 8, 2019 – The Internet Society’s Online Trust Alliance (OTA), which identifies and promotes security and privacy...

Building Trust 25 September 2019

The Internet Society’s Online Trust Alliance Announces Methodology for Eleventh Online Trust Audit and Honor Roll

Criteria updated to include increased focus on encryption and global privacy regulations; international retail segments added

Building Trust 9 July 2019

Internet Society’s Online Trust Alliance Reports Cyber Incidents Cost $45B in 2018

Reston, VA – July 9, 2019 – The Internet Society’s Online Trust Alliance (OTA), which identifies and promotes security and privacy...