That’s how much Internet provider TPG had to pay after failing to comply with the SPAM Act 2003.
The SPAM Act 2003? What on earth is that?
According to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA)
“The Spam Act 2003 prohibits the sending of unsolicited commercial electronic messages—known as spam—with an Australian link. A message has an Australian link if it originates or was commissioned in Australia, or originates overseas but was sent to an address accessed in Australia.”
Ok, I get that, but what are commercial electronic messages?
Commercial electronic messages are defined as messages that:
- offer, advertise or promote the supply of goods, services, land or business or investment opportunities
- advertise or promote a supplier of goods, services, land or a provider of business or investment opportunities
So basically every email that you might send promoting yourself, your business, goods or services.
Oh by the way, although we normally think of spam as being confined to email, the Act covers not only email, but also
- mobile phone text messages (SMS),
- multimedia messaging (MMS),
- instant messaging (IM), and
- other electronic messages of a commercial nature
Does my small business have to comply with the SPAM Act 2003?
Yes. The only organisations that are exempt from complying with the SPAM Act 2003 are:
- government bodies
- registered charities
- registered political parties and
- educational institutions (for messages sent to current and former students).
So unless you fall into one of those categories, every time you send a commercial electronic message you need to make sure you are complying with the Act, or risk the ACMA taking action against you.
What can the ACMA do?
The ACMA can
- Issue a formal warning.
- Accept an enforceable undertaking from a person or company
- Issue infringement notices.
- Seek an injunction from the Federal Court to stop a person sending spam.
- Prosecute a person in the Federal Court.
And as mentioned earlier, fines can be massive – $360,000 or more!
How do I know I’m complying with the SPAM Act?
There are three things you need to do to remain compliant with the SPAM Act:
1. Receive Consent – either express or inferred – before sending any messages
Express consent means someone has expressed a desire to receive your messages by
- filling in a form (like the one on the right hand side of this article) on a website;
- ticking a box when registering for or attending an event;
- swapping business cards.
However, it must be plain to them that as a result of that action they may receive commercial messages.
But you can’t send a message to someone asking for their consent – that is actually considered a commercial message because it seeks to establish a business relationship.
Which means that by asking their permission to send messages you’d in fact be spamming them!
Inferred consent can occur:
- If there’s a reasonable expectation you might send someone commercial electronic messages because you already have an existing business or other relationship with them;
- If you use an email address that was publicly listed (e.g. as a contact on a website) as long as the subject of the message is directly related to the role or function of the recipient and the address was not accompanied by a statement saying ‘no junk mail’ or similar.
2. Provide a way to unsubscribe from receiving future messages, on every message
Every message that you send must contain a way for the recipient to unsubscribe.
If you use an email marketing company like MailChimp they will offer automated systems to allow people to unsubscribe. But if you’re using Outlook or Gmail to send your emails then simply add a line at the bottom of your email like this:
‘Don’t want to receive my emails anymore? Simply reply to this email with ‘Unsubscribe’ in the subject line’.
Then make sure you do take that person off your email list if they do ‘unsubscribe’ – failure to do this and/or failure to then stop sending messages carries heavy penalties.
Remember TPG’s $360,000 fine? That’s why they were fined – for failing to appropriately comply with the ‘unsubscribe’ requirements.
3. Accurately identify who is sending the message
Any commercial electronic message you send must accurately identify you as the person or organisation that authorised the sending of the message. If this condition is not met, the message is classified as spam.
A simple way to do this is by adding your business name and contact details at the bottom of each email.
Again, an email marketing company like MailChimp does this automatically but if you’re using Gmail or Outlook you should add it as part of your default signature block to make sure you don’t forget to include it.
Want more help on complying with the SPAM Act or using technology in your business? Contact me to see how I can help you tame the technology beast.