Subscribing to that email list seemed like a good idea at the time. Email subscriptions often give you access to coupons and other deals you wouldn't otherwise know about. Plus, you may also receive a helpful newsletter with tips and useful information.
But if you subscribe to too many email lists you may find that your email box is always full. So full, that it may be difficult to find important business-related messages. Email subscriptions can fill your inbox and reduce your productivity.
For a complete guide to ending inbox clutter, download our free eBook, The Ultimate Guide to Inbox Zero Mastery.
If your email inbox is full of newsletters and other messages you subscribed to, you aren't alone. Email marketing is big business. Some studies, such as this one from VentureBeat show the return on investment from email marketing to be as high as $38 for every dollar spent.
When email newsletters overwhelm your inbox, the obvious solution is to unsubscribe from these emails. Not everyone knows how to get companies to stop emailing you. Unsubscribing from emails isn't as easy as it seems. And companies don't always honor your wishes.
In this post, we tackle the problem of how to unsubscribe from an email list head-on. You'll learn some basics about email subscriptions. We'll talk about the difference between SPAM and an email subscription. We'll also discuss the laws that govern SPAM. Finally, you'll find out how to stop receiving emails and learn how take measures so that your email box doesn't become too cluttered.
Why Email Subscriptions Aren't SPAM
If you've signed up for an email newsletter you no longer want, it can be tempting to think of that unwanted newsletter as SPAM. But that isn't the case. A newsletter subscription isn't spam, even if you've changed your mind about wanting it.
Email Newsletter Subscriptions Versus Spam
When you subscribe to a newsletter, you've entered into an agreement with the organization sending the newsletter. That agreement allows them to email content (the newsletter) to you on a regular basis until you end the agreement (unsubscribe or opt-out). In other words, you've opted in (chosen) to receive emails from that company. Most email subscriptions come from legitimate organizations and businesses.
Email SPAM is a different matter entirely. With SPAM an organization somehow gets your email address and starts sending you unwanted messages without your permission. There's no agreement between you and the SPAM sender to receive content. SPAM messages often come from an unreliable source. SPAM messages sometimes have misleading or fraudulent information. They might even contain a virus or malware.
In many cases, you won't see many spam messages if your email service has an anti-spam filter. Sometimes, they do slip through the filter, though.
Laws That Govern Email Subscriptions
If you've agreed to receive an email newsletter but have now changed your mind, it's easy to get the company to stop sending you email messages. In many countries there are legal requirements that organizations who send out mass email messages must follow.
Here are four laws that apply to email subscriptions:
- CAN-SPAM Act (United States). This act applies to commercial messages. It covers several aspects of commercial email messages, including the header information and subject lines. Most importantly, it requires the email sender to explain how to opt out of receiving messages. And, it requires that the sender honor any opt-out requests within ten business days.
- CASL (Canada). The act prohibits the sending of unauthorized commercial electronic messages through any type of telecommunication including SMS, VoIP, and several other means. Every email you send messages to must be opted in.
- PECR (United Kingdom). This act covers marketing by phone, email, text, or fax as well as website cookies. It requires that individuals must have a clear chance to opt out of receiving emails.
- The Spam Act 2003 (Australia). This act bans commercial electronic messages sent without consent that originate in or are commissioned in Australia. It also covers messages accessed in Australia. It requires commercial messages to provide a way to unsubscribe. Unsubscribe requests must be honored within five working days.
Note: I'm not an attorney. The information in this article doesn't represent legal advice and could change at any time. If you've got specific questions about your business, please consult with your own attorney.
If you notice, one common factor in most anti-spam laws is permission. The sender must have your permission to email commercial messages to you. The other common factor is the ability to unsubscribe, or opt out, of receiving messages.
How to Get Companies to Stop Emailing You - Right Away
Since so many countries require that commercial emails include an unsubscribe option, getting a company to stop sending you emails should be relatively easy. All you need to do is find the Unsubscribe option in the email and use it.
Using the Unsubscribe Link
Usually, the Unsubscribe link can be found at the bottom of an email. For example, here's the Unsubscribe link at the bottom of an email in Microsoft Outlook:
In Gmail, the Unsubscribe link often appears at the top of the email—next to the sender's email address. Here's an example from Gmail:
Using a Tool to Manage Your Subscriptions
You can also use a third-party tool to manage your email subscriptions. One example of a subscription management tool is Unroll.me. This tool allows you to unsubscribe from unwanted emails quickly. At the same time, it lets you consolidates email subscriptions you want to keep into a single email digest, the Rollup.
Note: Keep in mind, though, that while Unroll.me is a popular and easy-to-use service, its business model may involve selling anonymized user data to other companies. This is something to consider carefully before signing up. Learn more about the issue as covered in the New York Times. Also, if you've got Unroll.me set up on your Gmail account but would like to remove it, here's how.
You don't necessarily need a tool to manage your email subscriptions. You can use the tools built right into your own email provider to control where your newsletters go and which messages appear in your inbox.
One common strategy to keep newsletters out of your inbox is to use email filters to automatically sort your newsletter subscriptions into a folder (or label in Gmail). Learn how to use Gmail's filter tool to manage your inbox in this tutorial:
With your email subscriptions in a designated folder (label), you can review them when it's convenient for you, while your email inbox remains free of clutter.
More Options to Get Companies to Stop Emailing You
Occasionally you may find that you keep receiving an email even after you've unsubscribed from it. If this happens to you, know that the sending organization could be violating SPAM laws. At this point, you've got four options:
- Block the message.
- Contact the company directly.
- Report the message to your email provider.
- File a complaint.
Caution: The last two options can have serious consequences for the sender. It's important to be careful about using them. Make sure that your action is warranted.
Let's look at each option separately:
How to Block an Email Message
Most email providers offer a way to block messages from a specific sender. When you block messages from a sender, you'll no longer receive any messages from that email address. Here are two examples of how to do it:
To block a sender's email address in MS Outlook:
- Click the Junk icon towards the top left of the screen.
- From the drop-down menu, click the Block Sender option.
- Follow the instructions on the screen.
To block a sender's email address in Gmail:
- From within the email message, click the down arrow icon on the upper right of the message.
- From the drop-down menu, select the Block option.
- Follow the instructions on the screen.
If you change your mind about blocking a sender, you can always unblock them later.
How to Contact a Company
If you keep getting unwanted email messages, you could contact the company directly to request that they remove your name from their email list.
Since the CAN-SPAM Act requires that messages include a valid physical mailing address, you can send them a letter. In the letter, request that you be removed from their email list. (Keep a copy of the letter for your own records.)
You should also be able to find a phone number for the company on the email itself or on the company's website. Use the phone number to call and request that they remove your email address from their mailing list. (Make note of the date and time of your call. Also record the name of the person you spoke with.)
How to Use the SPAM Button
Some email providers offer a SPAM button. If you've tried to unsubscribe to an email list and your attempts have failed, you can click the SPAM button.
Here's what the SPAM button looks like in Gmail:
So, what happens when you click the SPAM button?
First, Gmail marks future messages from that sender to you as SPAM. This should keep you from receiving similar messages in the future. Next, if many other Gmail users click the SPAM button for the same sender, it can negatively affect the reputation of the email sender's domain.
How to File a Complaint
If your request to unsubscribe from an email doesn't work, you could file a complaint with your government. In the US, use this link to make the report: https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#crnt. In Canada, use this link: http://fightspam.gc.ca/eic/site/030.nsf/frm-eng/MMCN-9EZV6S
Other countries have similar means for reporting email law violations.
Take Preventative Measures
The best way to stop getting emails you don't want is to not subscribe to them in the first place.
Pay careful attention when you give out your email address. Before you sign up for an email subscription, think about whether you really want or need it.
Also, when you sign up for any offers or create a new account, read the Terms and Conditions carefully. Frequently, the opt-in is included when you create your account or make a purchase—but many people don't notice. The opt-in box is often checked by default. If you fail to read through the terms and leave the box checked, you just agreed to receive email from them.
In addition, make sure to review any Privacy Notices that you receive. The notice should disclose how the company intends to handle your information. In some instances, a company may disclose that they share your email address. Once again, the opt-in is often checked by default. Many people leave the opt-in box checked when they agree to the Privacy Notice.
For more strategies on how to reduce the number of unwanted email messages you receive in your email inbox, study these email tutorials:
- How to Stop Junk Email (Ultimate Spam Prevention Guide)Laura Spencer
- 6 Quick Email Management Tips: To Help You Hit Inbox ZeroLaura Spencer
Our new eBook, The Ultimate Guide to Inbox Zero Mastery, also contains helpful information to help you declutter your email inbox. Download it for FREE, along with a subscription to the Tuts+ Business newsletter.
Now that you know the best way to unsubscribe from emails you no longer want, you can take steps to unclutter your email inbox. We've explored some basic laws that govern commercial email. You even know some steps to take if you're still receiving emails after unsubscribing.
Don't let your productivity suffer because your email inbox is full of newsletters and other email subscriptions. Use what you've learned about how to unsubscribe from unwanted emails to become more productive today.