For DirectMag

Surely one of the greatest developments in the short history of e-mail marketing is the \”report spam\” button.

Once AOL developed the complaint button and in 2001 pioneered using a so-called feedback loop to supply e-mailers information on who complained – after which other inbox providers followed suit – marketers could no longer claim ISPs were blocking their messages unfairly and arbitrarily.

Now, e-mail service provider mobileStorm has taken the feedback loop one step further by integrating a \”complain\” tab into its e-mail template right next to the \”unsubscribe\” tab so clients must use it.

What\’s more, mobileStorm has written into its terms of use a clause giving it the legal right to fine and fire clients who spam.

The contract even outlines a scaled pricing structure that gets more punishing as the percentage of spam complaints clients generate rises.

MobileStorm also monitors the feedback loops provided by the various inbox providers to see how many complaints clients generate at them, as well.

To warn clients off spamming, mobileStorm reserves the right to charge $10 per complaint to clients who get complaint rates of from 0.31% to 0.7%.

For comparison, it is generally understood that a complaint rate of 0.5% or higher will result in delivery troubles at the major ISPs.

As for marketers generating higher spam-complaint percentages, mobileStorm reserves the right to charge $25 per complaint to those who get rates of from 0.71% to 1%; $50 per complaint to those whose complaint rates are from 1.01% to 5% and $100 per complaint to customers whose rates are 5.01% or higher.

MobileStorm also monitors the number of complaints sent about clients to anti-spam blacklist SpamCop and contractually reserves the right to charge customers on an increasingly punishing basis for those as well – up to $500 per complaint for from 11 to 15, for example.

\”Do we enforce it that often? No. We most likely get rid of the client first,\” said mobileStorm\’s CEO Jared Reitzin. \”The policy is in place for people who we\’ve warned and who we\’ve gone on record as warning, so when we charge them there isn\’t really much they can do about it because they\’ve entered into this contract.\”

However, he added: \”We usually do enough due diligence with a client that we pretty much know they\’re going to be good to go before they sign the contract.\”

It\’s not unusual for ESPs to monitor their clients\’ spam complaints and other factors that go into creating a mailer\’s so-called reputation, if for no other reason than to protect their own servers from getting blocked by ISPs. However, making clients provide their own report-spam button and sign a contract that says the ESP can fine them if they get too many complaints is unusual.

Does the contract prevent mobileStorm from getting some business? \”It can, yeah,\” said Reitzin.

He also said that on several occasions, would-be clients balked at the word \”complain,\” saying it was too harsh. He added he let a well-known shoe company that he declined to name change it to \”grumble.\” But other than that reasonably small concession, mobileStorm does not let clients\’ e-mail hit people\’s inboxes without that complaint tab.

\”The only way you can grow [as an ESP] is if your delivery is good,\” said Reitzin. \”If you\’re sending crap through your system all the time, you\’re going to get blocked by the ISPs.\”

He added: \”ISPs have to protect their subscribers from spam. If their service sucks there will be attrition. At the same time they have to keep their subscribers happy by letting them receive the content they want to receive. I have to sit down at the dinner table with AOL, Yahoo and Hotmail and look them in the eyes and tell them that mobileStorm is doing everything it can to work with legitimate marketers.\”

Maintaining an in-house feedback loop and reserving the right to fine spamming clients would seem to be a highly innovative way to do just that.