Direct email marketing laws and how they affect your business
In July 2020, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) issued a reminder to Australian businesses: comply with spam laws or face the penalties. During ACMA’s recent investigations, $1.5 million in fines were handed out to businesses failing to adhere to the Spam Act of 2003, which details the rights of people to decide what is delivered to their inboxes.
The Spam Act, last updated in 2016, regulates commercial email and other types of commercial electronic messaging. It legislates against unsolicited marketing material and address-harvesting software. At its core, the Spam Act says that all marketing emails sent from companies need to follow specific guidelines to ensure that the receivers of these messages are interested in them – or don’t regard them as ‘spam’. Failure to comply with these laws can result in harsh penalties for businesses, including fines, infringement notices, and even action in Federal Court.
No business wants their marketing material to be considered spam mail. Companies put a lot of work into creating effective and engaging marketing campaigns, and they want those emails opened, read, and acted upon. Inevitably, some individuals on your email marketing list may not be interested in your goods and services anymore. This is fine, so long as they are given the option to stop receiving information from your company.
To avoid the potential legal ramifications of sending unsolicited emails, ensure that you’re following the below guidelines:
Clearly identify yourself. All marketing material needs to clearly indicate the business that it is from. This includes your business name, and relevant contact details such as a mailing address, return email address, or phone number.
Ensure you have permission. You must have permission to send someone a marketing message in Australia. This can be express permission, or inferred permission. Express permission is obtained when customers fill in a form, tick a box on your website, or provide their email address in a conversation with you or representatives of your company. Inferred permission is when you can reasonably assume the person is interested in the message you are sending (e.g. a current customer.
Include an unsubscribe button. All marketing messages must include an easy way to unsubscribe, so people can stop receiving emails they don’t want. This can be an unsubscribe button or link in the body of the email, or instructions such as ‘to stop receiving messages, reply with STOP’. Any requests to unsubscribe must be honoured within 5 working days. Remember, this person can’t receive any marketing material from you again.
The best way to ensure that your email campaign doesn’t result in a lot of people hitting the unsubscribe button is to make your messaging as targeted as possible. For example, you may have a business that sells a range of products like high-end stationary, travel accessories, and tea and coffee. If someone bought a leather-bound notebook from your company, it makes sense to send them marketing material associated with pens, journals, and art supplies. However, this customer may not be a coffee drinker and could get annoyed if they persistently receive emails promoting your latest range of mugs and arabica beans. Filtering your email list to make sure customers are only being sent emails that are relevant to them will help your list stay strong and increase your open and engagement rates.