E-newsletter refresher: What does the Australian SPAM Act include?

Created in 2003 and managed by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), the Australia SPAM Act 2003 outlines what you legally can and cannot do when sourcing new subscribers, or sending commercial messages electronically to your network or database.

To begin with, it’s important to understand what is classified as an electronic commercial message?

  • Email
  • Short message service (SMS or text messages)
  • Multimedia message service (MMS)
  • Instant messaging (IM)

There are three key parts to the code of conduct to be aware of:

1) Consent – not only must you have consent from the individual you are contacting, but you need to be able to prove it.

A lot of the online tools you use to manage your e-newsletters have the functionality to embed a ‘sign up’ form into your website. The benefits are two-fold, firstly it makes it uber-easy to keep your database up-to-date with new subscribers, and secondly you can also keep track of when and how someone joined your mailing list (the proof!).

How do I know if I have consent? Well, according to ACMA there are two types:

(a) Express Consent – when that person or company willingly provides their email address by ticking a box on a website, filling in a form, face-to-face or by swapping business cards, and that person is made aware they may receive commercial messages.

(b) Inferred Consent – this can be trickier to navigate. Inferred consent can be obtained via another existing business or other relationship where there is ‘reasonable expectation’ of receiving commercial electronic messages. The other instance is when someone’s work contact details are publicly listed or published. There are a couple of caveats to be mindful of, so best to read the guidelines from ACMA here if you’re unsure.

Click here to read ACMA’s frequently asked questions around consent.

Side note: Some types of organisations are exempt from sending certain commercial messages without consent. This includes government bodies, registered charities, registered political parties and educational institutions (when contacting current and former students).

2) Identification – any time a commercial electronic message is sent, it must clearly identify the sender. This includes the individual or name of organisation that authorised the distribution of the message (who it is being sent on behalf of) and ABN where applicable, plus how recipients can contact your organisation or you as the individual.

(3) Unsubscribe – the unsubscribe function is mandatory on all electronic commercial messages. The SPAM Act stipulates that businesses must make it easy for people to remove themselves from your mailing list via clear and conspicuous instructions, and it must be honoured within five (5) business days.

ACMA provide a couple of examples of clearly worded unsubscribe facilities you can reference here.

Hungry for more e-newsletter tips? Click here to read Brisbane Hosting’s top five tips for growing your email database and ensuring your e-newsletters won’t be considered as spam.


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