Understanding the SMS marketing law in Australia

Topic:

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) recently announced their unsolicited communications priorities for 2018-19, and SMS spam, together with solar industry telemarketing and financial services telemarketing and e-marketing, are their 3 priorities.

We thought this would be a good time to remind all who are already, or are thinking of, using SMS for marketing and promotional purposes*, the importance of following the Spam Act 2003. Afterall, we all like the fact that SMS is cost effective and efficient, but the cost of breaching the law is pricey.  

The Spam Act 2003 governs all commercial electronic messages sent to Australians and it covers the following three main rules:

Consent from recipients

There are two types of consents – expressed and inferred. Expressed consent means customers have explicitly agreed to receive electronic messages from your organisation. This can be done via filling in a form, ticking a box on the website to agree to receive newsletter, contacting your business directly in writing or on the phone to ask for information to be sent on an ongoing basis.

Inferred consent relies on the relationship a business has with its customers. An example would be based on the existing relationships with the current customers or subscribers, it is reasonable to believe that the customers or subscribers would be interested to receive messages about similar products and services.  

Identification of the sender

The Spam Act 2003 requires all commercial electronic messages must contain clear and accurate identification of the sender. With SMS, you can either use a sender ID to identify yourself, or start your text messages with the name of your business or your brand.

One important thing to note is that the identity must be clear and accurate; in 2009 Optus was fined $110,000 for assuming customers could make the connection of the sender ID 966 – which is the numerical representation of the word “zoo”, to their OptusZoo entertainment service. (Source)     

To avoid such confusions and any possible breach of law, it’s always best practice to be as straightforward as possible.

Unsubscribe Option

The last requirement is to provide an unsubscribe facility. That means there must be clear instructions on how the recipients can opt-out from receiving any future messages.

The easiest way to do this with SMS is to apply for a Virtual Mobile Number and put at the end of your text messages something like this – “Opt out? Reply Stop to [virtual mobile number]”. SMS system like ours will recognise the “stop” and automatically add that number to the opt out list, where future messages would not be delivered by our system.   

Otherwise, according to the law, the message sender has 5 working days to act on the unsubscribe requests. Fail to act on them and keep sending SMS to customers who’ve already opted out is a breach of the Spam Act 2003, and could end up with big fines. (Source)

If you would like to know more about the Spam Act 2003, visit www.acma.gov.au; or contact us on 1300 764 946 if you’d like some advice about your SMS campaign.

*If your messages are not promotional – appointment reminders, staff rostering, alerts, delivery notifications etc. – you should still identify yourself clearly, but it is not necessary to offer an opt-out.

 

Author Avatar
Crystal Lam

I'm the Marketing Manager at Esendex Australia, with a background in journalism. I'm passionate about storytelling and the ever-changing world of emerging technologies.