Volume 17

Breaking the Rules

Do you pick and choose which rules of eMarketing you adhere to?

Every day we pick and choose the rules that we will choose to obey. This fascinates me. What determines which rules we will obey and which rules we will ignore? There are a number of reasons why I might choose to obey a rule:

  • fear of the natural consequences - if I speed down the highway at 160kph I will likely hurt myself and others
  • fear of the legal consequences - if I speed I could possibly face a fine and loss of points
  • fear of the social consequences - if I cheat people out of their money I could be alienated by society
  • a belief in the underlying moral purpose of the rule - I do not steal because I believe it is wrong

Have you noticed that if you don't "believe" in a rule, you may be more likely to try to find ways around it?

I have noticed an increased tendency lately to try to "work around" the laws governing direct marketing, specifically the spam laws. Many clients and potential clients have asked if it is acceptable to send marketing emails to lists of dubious origin as long as they allow people to remove themselves.

Given this recent trend, I thought it would be useful to recap the laws governing email marketing here in Australia.

The Spam Act came into force in 2004. It is administered by the ACA - the Australian Communications Authority. A separate eMarketing Code of Practice has been developed in conjunction with the ADMA to clarify the Spam Act and put its terms into plain English.

Here's the short version:

  • Do not send Unsolicited Commercial Communications. You may not send commercial email or mobile messages without consent.
  • Consent can be express or inferred. Inferred consent can be due to an existing relationship with the recipient. This relationship could include that of customer, account holder, subscriber, member, licensee, registered user, employee or contractor.
  • Pre-ticked boxes on application forms should generally not be used for consent.
  • If you do obtain a list of names from another company, you must take reasonable steps to ensure that those on the list consented to receive third party communications.
  • Include contact information in every message.
  • Include a functional unsubscribe facility. Act on these requests within 5 business days.
  • Maintain records of any complaints for at least 12 months. If the complainant is not satisfied, the matter should be referred to the ACA.

What makes this law one that you should pay attention to? The financial penalties are definitely heavy - between $220,000 and $1.1 million per day.

I would suggest that your primary concern should be your customers' perception of your eMarketing activities. Yes, you could spend hours combing the Code of Practice to find a way to send your message to more people. But if those people perceive the message as spam, it will do more damage than good.

I hope that you will adhere to the Spam Laws because you believe in them. Failing that, comply because your reputation and your bottom line will suffer if you don't.

Suggested Reading:

eMarketing Code of Practice http://www.adma.com.au/data/portal/00000947/content/89461001213320492476.pdf