Fasthosts is warning small businesses not to spam their customers with emails after the internet hosting firm revealed it has seen a surge in the number of web users complaining about business-related spam.

Fasthosts said between June 2010 and June 2011 it received 88 percent more reports from the public regarding unsolicited and unwanted emails sent by genuine businesses. Furthermore, the firm said a proportion of cases required investigation and/or action by the provider. In most cases, Fasthosts only had to provide the firm with advice of best practices in email. However, in some cases the offending firms were issues with a warning or even locked out of their relevant email account.

"In a tough economy, small businesses may be tempted to be more aggressive with the frequency of mailings, or begin to take for granted their right to email a contact base. Every firm must respect the value that consumers place on their Inbox, and take the proper measures to ensure they use email professionally and ethically," said Stephen Holford, marketing director, Fasthosts Internet.

Holford advised firms to avoid using unqualified marketing lists provided by third parties, as well as only using addresses that have opted-in to receive emails and always offering an opt-out in one click within the emails.

Furthermore, firms should only send emails in small batches and include a reference to where and how the recipient subscribed to receive the emails while also ensuring content is as specific as possible to the audience and avoid words that are commonly detected by spam filters.

"While spam is not new, the damage that it can do to business reputation and customer loyalty should definitely be cause for thought. The more responsibility a company shows towards their use of email, the more credible and rewarding email marketing will become as a channel".