7 Legal Essentials for Business Online: Part 6 – Anti-Spam Compliance

Anti-spam rules apply to telephone messaging as well as emails. Anti-spam is not just about bulk messaging. It only takes one text message or one email to be found liable for breaches of anti-spam legislation.

If you have a new business and you don’t use one of the common auto-responder or CRM services like Aweber or SalesForce then you might not be complying with anti-spam laws. If you are non-compliant and there are enough complaints made against you, your text or email system can be blocked or cancelled and your whole method of communication disrupted.  Do you want to be blacklisted and lose the trust of your newest customers before you even get a chance to show them what you’ve got?

Being anti-spam compliant is so EASY I am constantly surprised at the businesses that don’t get it right.

Three Simple Steps to be anti-spam compliant!

Get consent from the people on your database to send them messages on an ongoing basis.
Include clear and accurate information about the sender, and on email include a valid physical postal address.

Provide an accurate and functioning unsubscribe facility on every single message you send out.
If you want customers from all over the world then you have to choose the highest common level of anti-spam compliance. The highest level of compliance is express consent. That means that whoever you have on your database has to have opted in rather than just having the option to opt out of your list. The elements of the highest level of compliance are:

•        clear request and

•        conspicuous request for consent

•        response of the own initiative of the recipient

If your target market is Australian, you can use implied. This is a soft opt-in and occurs when someone enquires about a product or buys a product from you and you chose to send them marketing material about a similar product, including an unsubscribe feature, and they don’t unsubscribe. The person you are sending to might reasonably expect to receive promotional emails about your products. If they don’t take action to stop receiving the emails, then you are entitled to assume that they are ok to continue getting emails from you. The key factor is what the recipient would reasonably expect.

Buying a list is not the same as getting consent. Unless you can prove that the people on the list you purchased have consented to receiving marketing and advertising messages either specifically from you or about your business, then don’t use them.

Scam messages usually disguise or conceal who the sender is and often don’t provide contact details or list contact details that don’t work, so the minimum level of compliance for sending electronic messages is that you identify who the sender is.  The purpose of having accurate contact details (this can be a functioning link) is so that recipients can check to ensure that your business is a legitimate business. It is to inspire consumer confidence. After all, what legitimate business would be unhappy about letting their customers find them?

There is simply no excuse not to provide an unsubscribe facility on your messages. If you are sending out bulk messages make sure that the unsubscribe facility is working. Any bulk message system you use, whether it is free or paid, should have an automatic unsubscribe facility so that you don’t have to worry about updating your database yourself.

When you are starting out it is tempting to take short cuts in setting up your database just to save money. That is ok, provided that you know how you are using your systems and migrating information so that you don’t end up with multiple lists of people.

If you have a small business and you are operating on a shoestring and haven’t set up a CRM system then the very least you will need on your emails is a message that says “To unsubscribe email (insert appropriate email address) with UNSUBSCRIBE in the subject line to have your details removed from our list” and for your text messages, include “respond STOP to unsubscribe’.  If someone unsubscribes, then remove them permanently from your system.

If you need help in putting together procedures for your staff or want a poster for the wall that spells it out, contact the author.


Jeanette Jifkins is the founder and Principal of Onyx Online Law, an Australian based law firm with the focus of supporting businesses with an online presence.