Site logo

Paying for Spam Complaints? Validity’s New Twist on FBL Services!

Reading time: 3 minutes

Validity, a significant player in the email ecosystem, has recently started charging for the use of its ISP feedback loop complaint feeds, which have traditionally been free. Their announcement a few weeks ago of their intention caused not insignificant turmoil and confusion in the email community. It has also resulted in some vocal commentary and widespread criticism. At emailexpert we first saw it reported via an industry leader Anne P. Mitchell, and other industry leaders like Laura Atkins, and Al Iverson also provided great insights and commentary on the subject.

The feedback loop service (FBL) allows senders of email campaigns to receive individual reports when someone marks their email as spam this allows ESPs and email marketers to remove the complainant and suppress them from receiving future emails. Validity Universal FBL, used extensively by many businesses and offered at no charge since 2009, consolidates feedback from a number of ISPs into a single platform. Some of those ISPs would have operated their own FBL for free and at no charge and were encouraged to join the Universal FBL by Return Path, the organisation that went on to become Validity.

The Universal FBL consists of the following mailbox providers: BlueTie, Comcast, Fastmail, Gandi, Italia Online, La Poste, Liberty Global, LocawebMail, RuOpenSRS, Rackspace, SilverSky,, Synacor, Telecom Italia, Telenet, Telenor, Telstra, Terra, UOL, Virgin Media, Ziggo. So a relatively small footprint in the grand scheme of email and noticeably does not include any of the major mailbox providers. Potentially the most significant ISP is Comcast.

As per the recent announcement, users of the free Validity service will only have access to aggregated data insights through an application dashboard, possibly similar to Google Postmaster Tools. To continue receiving individual spam complaint reports, often used to manage deliverability and compliance at Email Service Providers, users will need to upgrade their package and start paying for the service.

Validity states the reason for this change lies in their increased operating costs. The fee for the individual ARF (Abuse Reporting Format) reports, set at $1,500 US annually for up to 100,000 complaints. Although aggregate data will continue to be provided for free at this time, the new pricing model is a significant shift from their previous free service.

The move by Validity is a major change for the email ecosystem and a break from the conventional free model. The major providers of email, like Gmail, Yahoo and Microsoft, are not part of the Validity Universal FBL. Gmail does not offer an FBL of this nature and ESPs and marketers are still able to navigate deliverability and compliance.

The new pricing model raises questions about the accessibility and affordability of what many have considered a crucial service for businesses, and some of whom are now questioning that thinking. Many of our contacts in the industry have indicated they will not pay for individual ARF reports and will instead look for alternatives ways to maintain their reputation and deliverability, AL Iverson has great suggestions of approaches you can take.

The upheaval sparks a conversation about the balance of power in the email ecosystem. Validity’s decision to charge for a crucial service stands to change the landscape. This may lead to ISPs offering their Feedback Loops directly to senders, something that would be welcomed by emailexpert in whatever format they chose to provide the data.

Overall, this development challenges businesses and the email ecosystem to adapt and seek out new strategies for deliverability success and ESP compliance. The long-term impact remains to be seen, but the move has certainly ignited significant conversation and changes in the world of email deliverability and ESP compliance.

Our Business Membership Programs are available for 2024