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Problems delivering to Virgin domains

Hi there.

I manage the deliverability for a commercial email sender (sending purchase receipts, delivery notifications and newsletters) and over the last couple of months the number of non-delivery notifications has been increasing.

We send a few hundred million messages a month to domains all over the world and it's only the Virgin Media domains where we see this problem. Specifically, I'm seeing bounces with the code "554 5.2.0 [unique reference] Spam content found".

I'm seeing bounces with this message on emails with no obvious issues, from hundreds of senders, and in increasing volumes.And to repeat, I'm not seeing inbox, delivery or spam filtering issues with any other email provider.

Hopefully there is just a tweak I need to make to our servers, DNS or sending domains, but I'd need someone to take a look at this issue with me and help me understand what changes I need to make.

Thanks in advance!

Steve Henderson

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Message 2 of 55
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Re: Problems delivering to Virgin domains

Oh, and to clarify: this isn't a complete block. in the space of a few seconds, the same email (same body, links, images,sender) can be accepted for delivery for some people, blocked for some people, then back to being accepted again!
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Message 3 of 55
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Re: Problems delivering to Virgin domains

The spam filters are not exactly consistent. But here's what you must do:

Advice for senders and Virgin Media customers

554 – 554 5.2.0 – “Spam content found” error message.

This error message from the Virgin Media incoming or outgoing mail servers shows , in my view, a systemic and  persistent problem with how the servers filter for spam. This is despite being aware of it for many months after the 2015 migration to their current e-mail platform. Resolution or alleviation lies with Virgin Media.

The spam filters are too sensitive. They do not properly discriminate between legitimate e-mail from reputable senders which gets rejected, and spam which gets through.

All kinds of mail senders are affected. This includes bulk mailers,  businesses sending out order confirmations, schools, voluntary societies, the NHS  and individual Virgin Media customers.

The company mostly attributes this error to badly configured mail servers or which do not meet Virgin Media’s exacting requirements for server set up.  We have seen a recent example of a properly set up server, signing e-mail correctly which has experienced this issue. So this cannot be a satisfactory explanation of the problem. Other e-mail providers have systems which do not behave this way. They successfully balance the expectation that legitimate e-mail will be delivered while minimising spam or ensuring that it is consistently delivered to a spam/junk folder. The Virgin Media system should but does not achieve this.

Virgin Media customers who experience this error when they send run-of-the mill  mail clearly cannot be at fault. They have no control over how Virgin Media’s mail servers are configured.

This advice is designed to help senders and Virgin Media customers to manage the issue.  Not all of it will apply in your case so you need to read it carefully and take what you need.

If you are responsible for sending out regular e-mails for a club or society using a straightforward mailing list do not be concerned by the technical nature of some of this advice, about e-mail server set-up. Just act in accordance with the practical advice given. That will be fine.

Advice for external senders

Reputable senders of e-mail to Virgin Media domains cannot be confident that their mail will be delivered.  It may be marked as spam and delivery refused. Much depends on how recipients have set their spam settings in web mail.

Virgin Media wish to handle such instances on a case-by-case basis. Senders should therefore post the 550 error message and an anonymised copy of one of the bounced e-mail headers in their thread. 

Virgin Media Forum team staff will get round to your post and will advise, after consulting with the company’s postmaster, what changes , if any, you should consider making  to your e-mail sending system.  This is not a quick process, given the number of posts and the load on the postmaster’s team.

These changes may include making sure your SPF, rDNS and mail signing protocols ( e.g DKIM) are set up correctly. It may also involve  removing from mail signatures URLs that do not point back to the originating domain or ensuring that any URLs in the title or the body of the text do not refer to sites that are associated with sending spam (blacklists may need to be checked – MX toolbox is a useful tool here).

Senders might feel that they should inform their customers of the risk that their mail will not be delivered to Virgin Media e-mail addresses. Customers could be advised follow the guidance below; most importantly the guidance on their spam settings.

Advice for customers

Individual customers who get the 550 error on outgoing mail should follow the advice above. Virgin Media will want to see what is happening when their servers reject run-of-the-mill e-mail.

Virgin Media customers who want to stop the majority of erroneous rejections of incoming e-mail by the spam filters must follow the proven advice here:

http://community.virginmedia.com/t5/Email/Ravenstar-s-Email-FAQ-s/m-p/3026118#M129705

The mail will end up in the web mail spam folder.  This is not ideal but at least the mail gets through. I made this change immediately at migration to the present system because I was not happy with the Virgin Media default settings which were to reject all spam. It has proved to be the right decision. It will be for you as well.  I have pushed for Virgin Media to adopt the advice as the default spam setting. They have indicated this is under consideration.

Customers using POP to collect their mail through an e-mail client will need to visit their web mail regularly to check their spam folder and move mail erroneously marked as spam (click the e-mail to select it and click on the “not spam icon”) to their  web mail inbox folder so that their client can download it.  This is what I do.

Customers using IMAP will be able to see their web mail spam folder in their mail client. They will be able to sort their mail without visiting their web mail account. The act of moving mail from the main from the spam folder to the inbox will automatically mark it as “not spam”. It will also help to train the infant spam filters and help them to be more discriminating – according to Virgin Media.

If you know the e-mail address of a particular sender then add that address to your web mail contacts will in effect mark the sender as a safe sender and the mail will end up in your web mail inbox and in your e-mail client  where it belongs.

Virgin Media e-mail users may feel that they should move all or part of their e-mail to a third party non-ISP linked mail provider to avoid this and other issues. That is a decision only they can make, but it is widely accepted as the right thing to do, not just because of this issue. I increasingly use my third party web mail provider as my main e-mail address to ensure resilience of my e-mail transactions.

Disclaimer

Superusers are generally not Virgin Media staff. Virgin Media do not approve or endorse my advice. This advice is given on the basis that I accept no personal liability (explicit or implied) as to its accuracy or safety.


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I do not work for VM. The advice I give is based on my best understanding of VM policy and practice. You rely on it at your own risk.
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Message 4 of 55
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Re: Problems delivering to Virgin domains

HowardML: A very thorough and complete answer. You've pulled everything together in a very concise and useful post. Thank you.

For my own case, sending domains have SPF, rDNS, DMARC and emails are signed with DKIM.
I have marked the answer as "helpful" to show this as the primary answer. I will educate my clients who in turn can educate their customers with the information and advice you've provided. Thanks again, Steve.
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Message 5 of 55
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Re: Problems delivering to Virgin domains

We are not going to get VM to fix the issue properly if you give up here. Please post one of the bounced headers (depersonalised as I have asked) so that the Forum Team can get the postmaster to look at what is happening and get back to you.

I think the current position is untenable for VM. They say they are still looking at it. That is simply not good enough for senders like you and VM customers like me.

This is not the only current craziness with the system - wait till you get hit by capricious VM rate limiting as part of their anti-spam measures.

Look - am I grateful for your kind comments about my advice. But I do want to push this further with you. We haven't really solved the problem. All I have given you are sticking plaster fixes.

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Re: Problems delivering to Virgin domains


CommCorp wrote:
Oh, and to clarify: this isn't a complete block. in the space of a few seconds, the same email (same body, links, images,sender) can be accepted for delivery for some people, blocked for some people, then back to being accepted again!

Bear in mind that some people may well have changed the default settings.  Just like Howard, I too changed mine as soon as I was migrated to this platform.

For my own part I still believe Virgin Media's e-mail team have woefully mismanaged how they deal with mail rejections.  Working with affected senders, I have proved that it is the Spam filters that are at issue and that the decision to reject spam by default was a flawed one.

I have consistently asked for ONE REASONABLE CHANGE - that the postmaster force a change across ALL Virgin Media e-mail accounts so that mail classed as spam is not rejected by default.  As yet this change HAS NOT BEEN IMPLEMENTED.

If users choose to change the spam settings later.  Then that is up to them.  I personally have warned of the dangers of trusting spam filters before now, when under the Google System users wanted to delete mail classed as spam automatically.

The Forum Team have a thankless task of picking up after the E-Mail teams mess.  They are gathering information and passing it on.  They are however fighting a battle that they should not have to be fighting.  I have nothing but admiration for the Forum Team myself and have worked with them to resolve other problems before now.  My comments are not meant to reflect on the Forum Team themselves.

Ravenstar68

________________________________________


Only use Helpful answer if your problems been solved.

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Message 7 of 55
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Re: Problems delivering to Virgin domains

As if I could disagree with a word of ravenstar68's comments. I associate myself with them in their entirety.

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I do not work for VM. The advice I give is based on my best understanding of VM policy and practice. You rely on it at your own risk.
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Message 8 of 55
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Re: Problems delivering to Virgin domains

Example Bounced Headers (emails obfuscated)

Arrival-Date: Tue, 4 Oct 2016 07:32:07 +0000
Final-Recipient: rfc822; c****vell@ntlworld.com
Action: failed
Remote-MTA: dns; mx.mnd.ukmail.iss.as9143.net (212.54.58.11)
Diagnostic-Code: smtp; 554 5.2.0 rKZ91t01G18UHYh01KZAEM Spam content found
X-PowerMTA-BounceCategory: spam-related

Arrival-Date: Tue, 4 Oct 2016 07:32:15 +0000
Final-Recipient: rfc822; j****pers@ntlworld.com
Action: failed
Remote-MTA: dns; mx.mnd.ukmail.iss.as9143.net (212.54.58.11)
Diagnostic-Code: smtp; 554 5.2.0 rKZY1t00418UHYh01KZZNr Spam content found
X-PowerMTA-BounceCategory: spam-related

I can also send server logs to administrators via PM, but obviously won't post on a public forum.

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Message 9 of 55
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Re: Problems delivering to Virgin domains

Thanks. You will almost certainly be asked for the logs by PM. And as you say not for posting on this site.

@ModTeam - excellent co-operation from the OP. Please deal.

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Message 10 of 55
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Re: Problems delivering to Virgin domains

Hi CommCorp, 

 

Welcome to the forums, I'm sorry to see you have been having trouble having some of the emails you send across to our customer delivered. 

 

Please pop me the unedited version of the header and the server logs via PM (Purple Envelope, top right hand corner) and we will take it from there. 

 

Speak to you soon. 

 

Emma

 

*Thanks HowardML Smiley Happy


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