How to: Ensure your unsubscribe facility works

17 Jan 2017

  • Privacy and Compliance

To ensure that consumers are protected by, and marketers comply with the Spam Act 2003, every commercial electronic message sent in Australia must contain an unsubscribe facility.

What is the Spam Act 2003?

Designed with consumers in mind, the Spam Act 2003, is administered and enforced by the Federal regulator: The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

According to ACMA the Spam Act:
“prohibits the sending of unsolicited commercial electronic messages — known as spam — with an Australian link. A message has an Australian link if it originates or was commissioned in Australia, or originates overseas but was sent to an address accessed in Australia.”

The Act relates specifically to all commercial electronic messages including email, SMS, MMS and instant messages.

3 rules of the Spam Act

To be compliant with the Act, there are three core rules of the Spam Act that organisations must follow:

  1. Consent
  2. Identify
  3. Unsubscribe

Consent relates to consumers allowing you to send them messages. Consent can be ‘express’ where a consumer has specifically requested information or ‘inferred’ where there is no direct request but there is a reasonable expectation by the consumer that they will receive messages.

Identify is about ensuring that you display accurate information of the person or business sending the electronic communication.

Unsubscribe is about making it simple for consumers to stop receiving your messages. The requirement is for a ‘functional unsubscribe facility’. 

Hitting the Unsubscribe Button

It is important that organisations are clear on how consumers can opt-out of receiving electronic messages. Doing the right thing and following the rules – having a ‘functional unsubscribe facility’ always makes for a better consumer experience.

Organisations that fail to provide a straightforward unsubscribe facility face the potential of significant penalties, fines, and to have their non-compliance can be made public via the ACMA website.

The guidelines below should assist in compliance with the Act;

  1. Include a functional unsubscribe facility in ALL your commercial electronic messaging (the facility needs to stay functional for at least 30 days after the date of send)
  2. To be ‘functional’ the unsubscribe must work! Therefore, test the unsubscribe facility before sending the communication to make sure that it operating as it should.  Many companies have been fined by ACMA due to the unsubscribe facility not working – therefore testing is imperative.
  3. Make it easy to find. The unsubscribe should be clearly visible within the communication, not hidden in separate terms and conditions or on a separate webpage.
  4. Make sure instructions on how to unsubscribe are simple, clear and easy to understand (e.g.: a link to an unsubscribe page). Also avoid the requirement for consumers to login before being able to unsubscribe. This adds an unnecessary hurdle and can result in the unsubscribe not being considered ‘functional’ or ‘easy to use’.
  5. Ensure consumers can unsubscribe by the same channel through which they have been contacted. i.e. if the commercial message is sent by text, the consumer should be able to opt-out via text.
  6. Action all unsubscribe requests within five days
  7. Make sure opting out doesn’t come at a cost to the recipient of the message
  8. Lastly, and importantly, be clear what the unsubscribe relates to. The wording of an unsubscribe statement should be clear so that the consumer understands which communications the unsubscribe relates to. From a business perspective this should be carefully crafted so that it is not too broad, inadvertently having the effect of preventing your organisation from contacting the consumer by any channel or for any purpose in future. Instead it should state what communications will cease and, ideally direct a consumer to a preference centre to decide the type of communications they’d like to receive and through which channels.

For more information about complying with the Spam Act, visit ACMA or contact the ADMA Regulatory team on regulatory@adma.com.au

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