Do you have a new business and would like to enter the world of email marketing?

Before you start to engage in email marketing, you will need to become aware of the Australian Spam Act. In Australia it is simply illegal to send unsolicited emails. If you do so, you can get reported and prosecuted.

Don't learn the hard way, please go to the ACMA website and get up to speed with what you can do legally with your marketing email list. 

The bottom line is that the Australian public is inundated with spam. For the statistics - take a look at our FAQ on spam statistics. This is the reason for the antispam laws.

So what's an unsolicited email?

Before your business "cold" emails somebody, you need to...

  • Have their Consent – the message must be sent with the receivers consent
  • Identify who you are – the message must contain accurate information about the person or organisation that authorised the sending of the message
  • Contain an Unsubscribe facility – the message must contain a functional 'unsubscribe' facility to allow you to opt out of receiving messages from that source.

Also keep in mind the Australian Privacy act. You cannot share people's contact details with third parties. 


The consent is the grey bit to understand. We've heard all sorts of bad justifications for engaging in spam activities...

  • "Its a business - so I can add them on my bulk email list" - WRONG
  • "They could use my services. They would like my email" - WRONG

From the ACMA website...

Whether you're targeting new customers or managing existing databases, you always need a person's consent before you can send them commercial electronic messages. There are two types of consent: express and inferred.

Express consent

When an individual or organisation first provides their email address, and you plan to send them a commercial electronic message, you must first get their express consent.

Express consent can be gained in a variety of ways - for example by filling in a form, ticking a box on a website, over the phone, face-to-face or by swapping business cards - as long as the recipient is clearly aware that he or she may receive commercial messages in the future. You cannot send an electronic message to seek consent: this is in itself a commercial message, because it seeks to establish a business relationship.

Businesses should keep a record of all instances where consent is given, including who gave the consent and how. Under the Spam Act, it is up to the sender to prove that consent exists.

Inferred consent

Inferred consent can come about in two ways:

  1. Through an existing business or other relationship, where there is a reasonable expectation of receiving those commercial electronic messages.

    If an organisation has a strong business relationship with the holder of an electronic address – for example, the address holder is a member of a club, a subscriber to a service, or a client it deals with on an ongoing basis – consent to receiving messages from that organisation may be inferred.

    If you are not confident that the existing business relationship is strong enough to infer consent, or are unsure that the recipient will want your messages, you will need to obtain express consent. You can do this by phoning the person and asking them for their consent.

  2. Through conspicuous publication of a work-related electronic address.

    Consent may also be inferred when someone conspicuously publishes their work-related electronic address (for example, on a website, brochure or magazine); and your business wants to send them a commercial electronic message that relates directly to that person's line of work. However, if a publication includes a statement that the person does not want to receive unsolicited commercial electronic messages at that address, you can not infer consent.

Getting Consent

The easiest way is where people can signup on their own accord on your website. They can also unsubscribe whenever they like, and its all automated. Thats a handy thing when you are managing an email list of 1000's. To encourage people to sign up, you can offer them a chance for a prize.

To collect a bunch of emails during an exhibition or live demo, ask people to fill out a printed register form. Clearly state on the form that its for your mailling list. Keep the forms for your records for proof.

If you collect their business card, ask them if they would like to be added to your mailing list.

Whenever you collect an email - you need to advise the recipient that they will be added to the mailing list.

Further Reference:

  • File a complaint to the ACMA about a spammer here
  • Learn more about our Spam laws here


The ACMA legislation is subject to change, so the information on this page may become outdated. For all matters, please seek the official and current advice from the ACMA. The information above is for general awareness and to direct people to the ACMA. BottomupWebs takes no responsibility for the information on this page.