General Compliance Tips

This page explains which issues can cause different types of warnings in your account. To use this guide, locate the type of complaint you're concerned with below. These include abuse complaints, high unsubscribe rates, or high bounce rates. Click a link from the list of possible causes to jump to more information about that issue and how to fix it.

Items Associated with High Abuse Complaints

  1. Permission
  2. Stale Lists
  3. Improperly Collected Lists
  4. Offline Lists
  5. Purchased Lists
  6. Content is Not Relevant
  7. Third-Party Marketing
  8. No Unsubscribe Link
  9. Outside Unsubscribe Process

Items Associated with High Unsubscribe Rates

  1. Permission
  2. Stale Lists
  3. Improperly Collected Lists
  4. Offline Lists
  5. Purchased Lists
  6. Content is Not Relevant
  7. Third-Party Marketing

Items Associated with High Bounce Rates

  1. Stale Lists
  2. Improperly Collected Lists
  3. Offline Lists
  4. Purchased Lists
  5. Improper Import


Before you can engage someone through email marketing, they need to opt-in to your list, preferably through double opt-in. Double opt-in is the process in which an individual signs up on an online form, and then receives an email that requires they click a link to approve the subscription.

Any other type of confirmation generally results in issues. Offline list collection, single opt-in, verbal, or other processes show no proof that the individual wants to receive emails.

Make sure your list is okay to use before you import subscribers into your MailChimp list. We understand that some circumstances do not allow for online sign up, but there are ways to properly collect offline lists.

There is one other aspect to permission that is important. Make sure it is very clear on your signup form that the individual will receive emails, and explain what content they can expect to receive and how often. Be as clear as possible when you set the subscribers' expectations. When you do not set the subscribers' expectations on the signup form, it can lead to high unsubscribes or abuse complaints.

Stale Lists

It's a good idea to send to your subscribers regularly to prevent your list from becoming stale. Lists become stale when your subscribers lose interest, forget they signed up for your list, or stop using the email address on file. Stale lists tend to generate bounces, unsubscribes, and spam complaints.

When a recipient reports your email as spam, it notifies their internet service provider (ISP). This is called a feedback loop. ISPs will block sending domains if they receive enough spam reports.

If you've been collecting emails for a long time and are just now using them, you should send a reconfirmation email before you send new marketing material.

Improperly Collected Lists

MailChimp is strictly a permission-based email delivery service. Sometimes, lists are collected from different sources or even third parties.

When we see lists collected in this manner, we may ask you to do the following:

  • Delete the list if all subscribers did not give permission.
  • Clean the list by deleting the inactive subscribers and removing those who you do not have permission to send to.
  • Reconfirm the remaining cleaned list.

Offline Lists

We do not allow lists that do not have proper opt-in confirmation. If you gathered your list at a show or in an offline capacity, you must have documented proof of the signup. Also, keep in mind, it is common for people to provide invalid email addresses with offline processes, which can cause high bounce rates. If you have proof of signup, it will help to protect you if someone makes a spam complaint.

Purchased Lists

Even under the best circumstances, purchased lists don’t get the same positive results as an organically grown list. When you build your own list, you collect subscribers who are interested in your product or business and definitely want to hear from you.

MailChimp’s Terms of Use include an  Acceptable Use Policy that does not allow purchased lists. These lists often include bad addresses that cause high bounce rates. Worse, many purchased lists contain spam trap addresses, which can lead to blacklisting.

If you’ve imported a purchased list, we will ask you to delete the entire list or remove the purchased portion of the list.

Content is Not Relevant

Relevancy is an important aspect of email marketing. If your content doesn't hold your subscribers' interest, they may mark the email as spam.

Use groups or segments to get relevant content to the right people.

Third-Party Marketing

Third-party marketing is when you decide to market another product or service to your subscribers, or when you switch company names. Any time you send as Company A either on behalf of or as Company B, it causes confusion because subscribers did not sign up to receive information from Company B. To introduce a new product, service, or company name, keep the following tips in mind.

  • Create a new list and send an introduction email, allowing subscribers to sign up to receive information on the other product or service.
  • If you are switching your company name, rebranding, or just acquired a new business, you have to reintroduce yourself. In your email, explain the change and allow users to unsubscribe if they no longer wish to receive the content.
  • Make it clear in your subscription process that subscribers may receive news about other services or products. While this may not stop a subscriber from marking your email as spam, being clear gives you protection.

Terms of Use Violation

If content or accounts violate our Terms of Use, we will suspend the account for investigation.

Improper Import

If you upload a bad list, the wrong list, or if you incorrectly upload the list, we will ask you to delete the list and upload it again to correct the issue.

Outside Unsubscribe Process

Internet service providers require that the unsubscribe process do three things: process unsubscribes, bounce records, and feedback loops. Because we have to make sure this happens for all emails sent through our servers, we do not allow you to supply your own unsubscribe link. If we find that you used an outside unsubscribe link, we will shut down the account and ask that you agree to include the MailChimp unsubscribe link in all future campaigns.

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