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
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
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
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:
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.
(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.
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
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
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
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
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
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)
- 6 Quick Email Management Tips: To Help You Hit Inbox Zero
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