In either case, real offender or not, proactive notification to the e-mail administrator — which is listed in the mail server’s MX record — is never done. Companies normally don’t find out that they’ve been placed on an RBL until days or weeks later when they try to troubleshoot why an e-mail isn’t reaching a particular customer. It takes 10 seconds to get on a list, and 10 days to get off — if you’re lucky.
I’m working for a customer right now that was incorrectly placed on AT&T’s RBL, the second one this year. This customer was never an open relay, and their firewall doesn’t allow spam-sending worms and bots to succeed. Maybe their ISP updated their IP address and they got assigned some past owner’s RBL-blocked IP address? (Lesson to learn: Make sure to ask before you get assigned a new IP address.)
Regardless of how they ended up there, trying to find AT&T’s instructions for getting my customer off the RBL is like searching for a needle in a haystack. There's a page with instructions, but it isn’t easy to reach. You’re much more likely to find people on the Internet complaining about how they can’t locate the instructions and how they, too, can’t get off AT&T’s RBL.
I was lucky: I’ve contacted AT&T before, so I had the correct abuse address. I followed the instructions and sent the removal request. In both cases this year, AT&T responded to me, saying that my client has been removed from the RBL.
But in both cases, the client wasn’t actually removed.
Additional pleading, begging e-mails to the abuse address just results in the same “You will be removed soon” auto-reply, but the action never takes place. Good luck in finding a real person to talk to on the phone and get a resolution. In both of my cases, these customers simply can no longer use their company’s e-mail system to contact AT&T e-mail customers. It’s a shame — and AT&T should be ashamed.
Is it too much to ask that RBL maintainers place easy-to-find removal instructions on their sites and actually follow through on the e-mails sent to them? I dare to dream.
Send me an e-mail or post a comment if you’ve had similar problems with AT&T's RBL. Maybe with enough collected evidence we can force the company to improve its process.