Spam – what can you or can’t you do?

Spam – what can you or can’t you do?

Spam, what can and can’t you do. I’m not talking about Spam as in the ham that the Americans like, I’m talking about spam as in unsolicited emails. The bottom line in Australia, is that you do need to have permission to send somebody an email. The best way to do it is to get their expressed permission. So if you do work for them, let them know that you have a newsletter and ask them whether they are happy for you to send out your newsletter. What’s the situation if somebody gives you their business card at a networking function? 

That tends to indicate that they would be happy to hear from you. That would be one where it wouldn’t be too problematic if you put them on your newsletter list. There has to be some kind of connection between you and them. So what you cannot do is you cannot go and scour the internet for every email address that’s out there and just add them onto your list. I will often get spam for lawyers, so they might be a new marketing company that is now helping lawyers to market their businesses. Then they go onto the Queensland Law Society site and they take all of the lawyer’s email addresses and then email all of those lawyers.

Just because we have our email address online, doesn’t mean we’ve given permission. So when I get that, I always send them a free copy of the spam chapter in my book telling them that what they’ve done is illegal. Why should we care? Well, one company in Sydney got fined 22 million dollars for spamming people, so it’s really serious. Always make sure that you have people’s permission to send them your emails. I’m not talking about transactionals, so if you’re working with them, obviously you are allowed to email them. I’m talking about general emails, like a newsletter or notification if you’re going to be in their city and running a seminar. 

That kind of thing you do need permission for, it can be expressed permission, where they tick the box. If you’ve got a freebie on your website and they have to put their email address in, it would be safe for you to put in there “I give consent to receiving further emails from you.” So that the person knows that when they tick the box and they sign up, they will be getting future emails from you. What falls foul of the Australian Anti-Spam law and New Zealand is very similar. What often catches people out, is the situation on social media. If you put things up in your group and people belong to your group that’s fine, you can post things and people can see your events. 

It’s quite common for people to friend each other in a business relationship, so I don’t personally know everybody that I’m Facebook friends with. I’ve got over 1,000 Facebook friends, closing on 1,500 now. If they friend me and I accept, that does not mean I accept being spammed by them. I certainly accept personal messages, I accept the risk that they might message me, they might want to tell me about what they’re doing. But if they’re spamming me, like sending the message that says “buy my stuff, buy my stuff.” or, “I’ve got a national tour coming up, come to my workshop.” That is spam. So pretty much if I receive a message that’s in the bulk form, so they’re sending it to their entire database I’ve not agreed to that by accepting a friend request. If they send me a personal direct message that I have agreed to by accepting their friend request. 

So when you send out messages on social media be very careful and don’t bulk message people about your events and your offerings. Firstly, it just gets up people’s noses, I don’t know a single person who is going to buy from a person who sends out a bulk message. “Hello, all my friends, I’ve got a workshop on.” I don’t know a single person who will find that attractive and sign up. So it’s just technically a bad business move. Secondly, it is illegal, it falls foul of the Anti-Spam laws, you don’t want the risk of fine in the millions, so don’t use personal messages for bulk mail ads.

You need to make sure you’ve got permission understand that it extends to social media and you also you need to have some way of easily unsubscribing them, any of the mailing software like Mailchimp or ActiveCampaign or ONTRAPORT have automatically built in an unsubscribe feature. It has to be easy to unsubscribe and once somebody unsubscribes, you have to keep them off your list for at least a few days, don’t put them back on your list unless they specifically agree. I use ActiveCampaign, what that lets me do is, for each person that I add onto a list, I can say why they’re on the list, so for some people it might say you gave me your business card at a networking function. For other people, it might say you came to my workshop, or it might say you made an inquiry about my services.

If you get queried as to why you’ve added somebody, you need to know how did that person in particular get onto your list, the Spam law is really treating people how you would like to be treated. You do need to understand that some overseas countries require a double opt-in. Which is where if you’ve got a free Lead Magnet on your website and somebody puts in the email address and they get the free Lead Magnet, you email them and say “If you want to be added to my list, click this link and then you’ll be added.”

So not only did they sign up on your website, but you also emailed them to confirm and then they had to click the link to be added. That double opt-in is not required as of 2018 in Australia or New Zealand, and we don’t see that changing anytime soon, but it is required for some overseas countries and especially for Europe. I know a lot of Australian businesses who deal overseas who create double opt-ins where they’re getting everybody to specifically confirm that they want to be on that list. That’s all that there is to the Spam laws, it is important because big fines could apply, but if you use one of the softwares like ActiveCampaign you can comply with it quite easily. Provided you’re not using people’s emails without their permission, and remember Spam laws also extend to social media. Good luck with not falling foul of the spam laws, my name is Cathryn Warburton and I am the Legal Lioness.

Cathryn Warburton About the author

The Legal Lioness. Overcoming severe bullying as a child instilled in her a passion to protect others. As a skilled litigator, she indulges in her dream to push-back against business-bullies who target her clients. She is an international award-winning lawyer and patent attorney and 5-time published author. Cathryn bullet-proofs her client’s businesses and protects them like a mama lioness protecting her cubs. She makes sure that no business is left without access to affordable, easy-to-understand legal information. She does this through her books, proactive legal workshops and 1-2-1 legal services.