More and more businesses are reaching out to their customers via email and SMS. And why not? It’s very cost-effective and practically instantaneous.
But if you go about it the wrong way, you can seriously damage your reputation with current and potential customers and find yourself in breach of the Spam Act.
To avoid non-compliance with current legislation governing electronic messaging – organisations should ensure that their staff undertake compliance training in order to be aware of the do’s and don’ts.
In the meantime, let’s have a look at the Spam Act 2003, and a few suggestions as to how you can comply with the legislation and maintain positive relationships with your customers.
What is Spam? Loosely speaking – spam is ‘junk mail’. That is, unwanted messages sent to email inboxes and mobile phones. Spam clogs the system, causes dissatisfaction and distrust amongst consumers and generally makes it harder for legitimate businesses to communicate effectively.
The Spam Act made it illegal to send or cause to be sent, unsolicited electronic commercial messages with an Australian link. This includes email, SMS and MMS messages.
What are the potential penalties and breaches? The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is responsible for enforcing the Spam Act, with penalties and breaches being quite substantial. These include, up to $220,000 for a single breach, and as much as $1million for subsequent breaches. Breaches to this Act are very real:
- In 2017 well-known internet provider – TPG Internet Pty Limited – were required to pay a $360,000 infringement notice following an ACMA investigation that found it had breached the Spam Act by sending SMS messages to consumers who had withdrawn their consent by unsubscribing.
- Furthermore, ACMA’s quarterly report between January and March 2019 in relation to unsolicited communications saw ACMA finalise 6 investigations and commence another 7, release a paper on combatting scams, and issue 2 formal warnings against organisations.
- In this same report, ACMA released that they have received $378,000 paid in infringement notices for the 2018-19 financial year.
The Spam Act 2003 is all about having respect for consumers. If you are forthcoming, honest and transparent with the information that you are communicating – with actions taken to protect privacy and time, consumers will respond in kind. At the very least, your business will be seen in a positive light and even if a sale is not made, your reputation will hold great integrity.
There are 3 main principles of the Act:
- Permission (consent) – messages can only be sent with the permission (either expressed or inferred) of the person who owns the account for the address (usually the recipient). before sending an electronic message, you must have the recipient’s consent .
- Identification – messages must contain the name and contact details of the person or business that authorised the message (sender identification).
- Unsubscribe – every electronic message must contain a functional ‘unsubscribe’ facility, allowing the recipient to declare they do not wish to receive any future messages from you (to ‘opt out’ or unsubscribe).
Avoid contravening the Act by adopting good business practices. To help mitigate against the main principles you should:
- Ensure consent is received – avoid upsetting those who have no interest in your products or services by focusing your marketing only on people who have expressed an interest in receiving messages from you.
- Identify yourself clearly – provide adequate information about your business so that the recipient is reassured that you are a bona fide sender. If yours is a name they recognise (and if you are only messaging those who have consented, it should be), make sure you reinforce this.
- Let recipients unsubscribe easily – make sure your ‘unsubscribe’ process is clear, easy and actually works. If a person continues to receive unwanted messages after having tried to unsubscribe, you can be sure they will never do business with you in the future and will certainly tell their friends.
Electronic messaging can be a valuable tool in your marketing repertoire – provided it is treated like any other aspect of your business. That includes educating your employees on its pitfalls and advantages through risk management training. If you use electronic messaging in haste, it is likely that you will fall prey to the Spam Act. Your reputation will burn very quickly – one that you may have been growing and nurturing for many years.
Be proactive in your training with Safetrac
Avoid this risk and protect your organisations reputation.
Take a look at our online course on the Spam Act or contact Safetrac to discuss how we can support your unique training requirements that engages and educates your staff, protects your organisation and your bottom line.