Email feedback loops have provided a valuable way for mailbox providers to notify senders of spam reports from recipients for years. However, there was no standardized system, so providers created their own unique processes.

This decentralized but non-standardized approach caused management challenges, so companies like Return Path began hosting feedback loops on behalf of mailbox providers. In 2018, Return Path launched their “Universal FBL” product, where senders could register in one place for reports from their many mailbox providers.

Return Path was subsequently acquired by Validity. Late in 2023, Validity announced that reports from the Universal FBL service would now be chargeable. Up to 100,000 complaints would now cost $1,500 annually, with $1,500 for each additional 100k batch.

While it is understandable for a service to charge to sustain itself, Validity's expensive and inflexible pricing may risk diminishing the value of comprehensive spam reporting. The financial deterrent it poses to senders could result in fewer organizations participating, consequently reducing the overall value of the reports.

Shortly after Validity's announcement, RFC 9477 was published to decentralize complaint reporting by standardizing complaint address discovery. This allows senders and receivers to bypass paid centralized reporting and communicate directly.

Sendamatic supports RFC 9477 headers for a seamless transition to direct decentralized feedback loops. Platforms like Abusix also offer free alternatives to Validity for mailbox providers adapting to the updated reporting standards.

The ultimate goal should be to maximize useful abuse reports, and the introduction of the CFBL header and the adoption of RFC 9477 mark significant progress in the realm of decentralized spam reporting. By overcoming the challenges of non-standardization and addressing the financial concerns associated with centralized reporting, the email community can work together to combat spam effectively.