Though the provisions of the New Spam Act come into effect from 10 April 2004, many of those effected by this legislation still remain unaware of its requirements. The legislation applies equally to both single and bulk email deliveries that are commercial in nature. If you use email as part of your business activities it is wise to familiarise yourself with the Act.
As a quick summary there are basically 3 important steps when sending out any commercial message:-
1. Ensure you have consent – Consent can be expressed, (ie a direct request), or inferred (ie an existing business relationship). Signing up to an email list is an example of expressed consent. Inferred consent would probably apply to a regular customer, but not to a once off customer. A quick rule of thumb:- if you are not certain that they want your message then you shouldn’t send it.
2. Clearly and accurately identify yourself and your organisation. Learn how to create a signature for your emails if you don’t have one already and include your details in it.
3. Provide a functional unsubscribe facility. Instructions on how to unsubscribe should be provided in the message. If you don’t have a automatic unsubscribe facility you could include a instruction in the text such as “If you wish to opt out from future messages, send a reply with the subject UNSUBSCRIBE””. Consider adding this or similar to your email signature. One potential drawback is that some spam filters are tuned to detect fake unsubscribe instructions and there is always the possibility that they may accidentally block you. Note:- You have 5 working days to honour an unsubscribe request.
Things get a little hazier if you provide a “send to a friend” or “email page” function on your website. NOIE’s Spam Act 2003: A practical guide for business document states:
“Sometimes you may receive a request from a person to send commercial electronic messages to another person. In this case the addressee themselves did not submit the request and as a result the consent requirements of the Act may not be met. If you receive a request like this you should contact the addressee and seek confirmation of the request that was made and ensure that they consent to you sending commercial electronic messages to them. When doing this it may be useful to provide information on whom requested the initial subscription on their behalf, or how the subscription request was submitted.”
And now for the scary stuff – a fine of up to $220,000 per day applies. A repeat breech of the act is subject to a penalty of up to $1.1 million.
see http://www.noie.gov.au/publications/NOIE/spam/Act2003/ for more info