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Building an opt-in database of potential and existing customers is an important part of your marketing and business growth strategy. The ability to communicate offers, changes, relevant information, and sales in a cost-effective manner can increase sales, result in a higher rate of conversion than other online marketing activities, and widen the awareness of your brand and business.

Since 2003, the Australian Spam Act has been in place to how regulate how businesses can communicate via email.

If your business uses any form of electronic marketing, including email and SMS marketing, there are three key areas that you must understand and comply with under the ACMA Spam Act.

1. Consent – the message must be sent with the recipient’s consent. The recipient may give express consent, or under certain circumstances consent may be inferred from their conduct or an existing business or other relationships. Inferred consent may exist where you have an existing business relationship, where there is a reasonable expectation of receiving electronic communications.

2. Identify – the message must contain accurate information about the person or organisation that authorised the sending of the message and how to contact them. This includes the ‘from’ field and in the body of the message. If you cannot determine who has sent the message or feel the sender is not clearly identified, this may not comply with Spam Act requirements.

3. Unsubscribe – the message must contain a functional ‘unsubscribe’ facility to allow the recipient to opt out from receiving messages from that source in the future. Unsubscribe requests must be honoured within five working days.

According to the ACMA[1], examples of unsubscribe include:

  • A sentence at the bottom of an email advising 'to unsubscribe, reply to this email with unsubscribe in the subject line' or 'to unsubscribe, click on this web address and enter your email address'
  • A notification in a text message to reply 'stop' to opt-out or 'unsub';
  • A notification to 'change your preferences' in your account to opt out of receiving commercial messages.

All commercial electronic messages must contain notification of how to unsubscribe from receiving further messages.

The ACMA send approximately 7,000 informal warnings to business each financial year informing them of breaches of the Spam Act. These informal warnings are effective in increasing compliance; however, failure to comply will result in fines being handed down.

The compliance side of email marketing is necessary. Both the financial and reputational consequences of failing to comply with the Spam Act are real.