Hosting Providers and SPAM Policies

Imagine that you go online to check your company email and you are not permitted to log in to your account. Many thoughts go through one’s mind, notably, ‘could the server be down?’, ‘did my webmaster change my password without notifying me?’, or ‘jeez, is my website still there?’ So you decide to look at your home page and you see this:


Account Suspension is a polite phrase that means, “you have been kicked out of the clubhouse.” But what is the problem? What has my webmaster done (or NOT done) to allow this transgression? Customer technical support is contacted, and to your great surprise you learn that you have been caught sending unwanted commercial emails to unsuspecting people and your name has been blacklisted. Better yet, one of your competitors was a recipient of your email and they were in the mood to make an example of you. Your sitehost receives the directive to suspend your site, and they may or may not allow you to gather up your belongings before tossing you from the server.


Zero-Tolerance Spam Policies

Many hosting providers (and domain registrars) make no bones about shutting you down for violating their Zero-Tolerance SPAM Policy. You are found guilty of violating the Terms of Service and you are shut down without warning. If you have an otherwise spotless history and cordial relationship with the site host, you may have better luck getting your website back. An example of an across-the-board anti-SPAM policy :

Sites advertised via SPAM (Spamvertised) may not be hosted on our servers. This provision includes, but is not limited to SPAM sent via fax, phone, postal mail, email, instant messaging, or usenet/newsgroups. No organization or entity listed in the ROKSO may be hosted on our servers. Any account which results in our IP space being blacklisted will be immediately suspended and/or terminated.”

Are you purchasing the services of an email address provider that advertises online? Do you know how they harvested the email addresses? Is your website’s link in the body of the email? Even if you hired a service in good faith because their website claims they have thousands of potential customers eagerly awaiting your sales pitch in their Inbox, you owe your company and reputation a little due diligence. Ask how their email addresses have been harvested. Email stripping programs steal addresses from the internet for the purpose of sending unsolicited email messages. The host involved in this example does not allow mass emailing. The first promise you need to make when pleading with tech support for assistance will be that you will prevent mass emailing from recurring (forever).


spam10088249Opt-In Lists

It is not illegal to allow your visitors to ask to be included in your email newsletter list. There are some very effective software plug-ins for WordPress that are easy to use. In this case, emails are sent from your host mailserver, but these are confirmed, opted-in and willing recipients. Be certain that your email rate (1 email sent every 8 seconds, for instance) does not violate your host’s recommendations, and you’re good to go. All mails contain ‘unsubscribe’ links that you do not have to monitor at all.

Reputation Repair

Whether you thought your email list provider seemed reputable or not, getting blacklisted is serious for your company and all who associate with you. Your email list service must immediately cease all further mailing using your domain link forever.

FTC Guidelines

The Federal Trade Commission Bureau of Consumer Protection provides an informative guide called The CAN-SPAM Act: A Compliance Guide for Business.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at


Internet Sales Tax

Marketplace Fairness

Many small “ebiz” owners have questions about the “internet sales tax” and how it might impact their profits. The proposed legislation is called the Marketplace Fairness Act of 2013, and the 45 states that collect sales and use tax on goods and services will be affected.

Apparently the Federal Government trying to tell you that your US based internet business is responsible for collecting sales tax on everything you sell in the US, no matter what state your buyer lives in.

The legislation has little to do with “Fairness”, of course. It’s about collecting revenue.

In 1992 the United States Supreme Court decided that “no state may require retailers to collect sales taxes from online buyers unless the retailer has a physical presence in the taxing state”. In other words, paying tax to an entity that has no physical presence in the state you live in is not even legal.

Big-box retailers who push this legislation claim that they lose business unfairly because people shop online to avoid paying local sales taxes. That simply isn’t true. Consumers shop online for convenience, not to avoid paying tax. Look at the shipping and postal delivery rates these days- that’s certainly not stopping online sales!

Businesses netting under $1 million are exempt from this legislation. For businesses with over $1 million in sales will have to have to pay a tax service to do all this for them… or purchase and run 45 different software programs to figure out sales tax state by state.


Website and Marketing Services

There is no sales tax on advertising, inclusive of online marketing and website services. If you are the owner of a registered small business, advertising is one of those investments that may be claimed as a business expense on the income taxes you file every year.