All electronic commercial messaging in Australia is covered by the SPAM Act 2003.
It prohibits sending of ‘unsolicited commercial electronic messages’ and covers email, SMS (Short Message Service), MMS (Multimedia Message Service), IM (Instant Messaging) and any other electronic message service you might employ to convey a message.
How is spam caught?
Your email marketing software will use a spam score to alert you of any potential issues. Like a bank running a credit check before giving you a loan, Sender Score and Sender Reputation give an indication of your IP address’ trustworthiness to spam filters.
Spam checkers will also offer you an indication of potential issues with your email.
Mailguard, Litmus Test and Return Path all check factors of your email to make sure it will not only be safe to send through to customers but that it will also reach your customers and not get caught in spam filters.
How do we avoid spamming people?
Always get consent
If someone subscribes to your newsletter, you don’t send them additional offers. On the flip side of that, if someone downloads a resource from you, don’t subscribe them to your newsletter, unless the opt-in to do so while filling out a form to get the resource. This way you are sure that your email list is clean.
Use email list segmentation
You can mix the content in your email (newsletter or marketing promotion), but ideally, a good email database is segmented to ensure that customers receive the content most appropriate to them and their needs. Sending the right message to the right people will also improve your open and click-through rates, not to mention positive brand sentiment.
Double opt-in for the win
Ask customers for their email address on a form, subscribing them to a list. Then, drop them an email confirming that they want the content you’re going to serve them. This is best practice and commonplace these days, so you’re not likely to come across too many people who complain.
Anyone unsubscribing from your email list MUST be removed from the list within 10 days of the submission of their unsubscribe request. Make sure your lists are clean.
Develop a blacklist
A blacklist should contain all email addresses who opt out of your emails. This is useful if you change email providers, avoiding accidental sending to unsubscribed email addresses.
What about purchased lists?
Using a purchased list of emails doesn’t do anyone any favours, least of all your business. They decrease deliverability rates. Encapsulating Deliverability Rates (ESP) will not accept purchased email lists.
They contain ‘Spam Traps’ which are real email addresses used to identify and test the validity of the sender. Once you’ve been flagged for using email addresses on these lists, spam filters will automatically filter your messages through to spam or junk folders.
You will be contacting people who did not opt-in to receive your information, which is against the law. You might think it will provide some short-term wins, but it’s false economy.
The use of a single spam trap address can decrease your inbox placement rate (a deliverability benchmark to determine what percentage of sent emails reach the intended subscriber’s inbox) to 81% or lower.
What is consent?
CANSPAM states that all commercial electronic messages sent by a business require consent. They also break consent down into two types: Express and Inferred.
Express consent is when an individual or organization first provide their email address. Technically, they have given the green light for you to send them marketing communications. This consent never expires, but you should still occasionally carry out a data cleansing campaign, to clear out the dormant email addresses in your list. Some actions that constitute express consent:
- Filling out a form
- Ticking a box on a website
- Over the phone approval
- Face-to-face approval
- Swapping business cards
- Recipient’s awareness or expectation of an email
is an action that implies the recipient is happy to be marketed to, without actually signing up for, or opting in to an email list. Actions that can be taken as inferred consent:
- An existing business relationship
- An expectation of the recipient to be receiving and electronic Direct Mail
- A published work-related email by an individual that is accessible to the public
Can you email customers to obtain their consent to send messages?
No. Unsolicited commercial electronic messages cannot be used to gain consent, so you’ll have to find another way to get the consent you need to market to them.
What are the Penalties for Spam?
A single incident of contravening the Spam Act, you can anticipate a fine of $180.
If you have past records of sending two unsolicited emails on a given day, you could face fines of up to $1,800,000.
In Australia, the ACMA or certain client Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are the ones who will take legal actions against spam violations, not individual customers.
For example, Valueclick was fined $2,900,000 for sending spam emails offering enticements in a variety of deceptive email subject lines.
Yesmail was fined $50,000 for not removing email addresses from their email lists. They had used a perfectly legal “reply-to us and we’ll remove you from our email list” method, but these emails had then accidentally been deleted by the company’s spam filter, so never made it off the send list.
Luckily, the ADMA (Association for Data-driven Marketing and Advertising) has a handy flow chart to refer to make sure you are acting in accordance with the SPAM Act 2003.
Got questions about your email marketing, or compliance? Learn how we can help with email marketing and marketing automation.