What is spam?
Spam is the common term for electronic 'junk mail'-unwanted messages sent to your email account or mobile phone. Under Australian law, spam is defined as 'unsolicited commercial electronic messaging'.
Some spam promotes a product or invites you to visit a website; other spam tries to trick you into investing in fraudulent schemes, or revealing your bank account or credit card details. Email spam often carries viruses.
The Spam Act 2003 covers email, mobile phone messages (text messages/SMS, MMS) and instant messaging. It is enforced by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). The Spam Act does not cover faxes, voice telemarketing or internet pop-ups.
How can I tell if it's spam?
Any commercial message sent to you by email or to your mobile phone that does not meet the following conditions is breaking Australia's spam laws:
- Consent: it must be sent with your consent.
- Identify: it must contain accurate information about the person or organisation that authorised the sending of the message.
- Unsubscribe: it must contain a functional 'unsubscribe' facility to allow you to opt out from receiving messages from that source. Your request must be honoured within five working days.
What can I do if I receive spam?
Some spam is sent by professional spammers in Australia and overseas, while other spam is sent by legitimate businesses that are not complying with Australia's spam laws. If you receive commercial messages to your email address or mobile phone, you have several options:
Do not respond if the email message seems dubious
If you receive an email that seems dubious, or the subject line or sender looks suspicious, it is safest to delete it immediately without opening it. Do not reply, and do not click on any links, including 'unsubscribe' links; doing so may result in even more spam. Do not buy spam-advertised products or services as many are fraudulent and buying them only encourages more spam.
If the source seems genuine, contact the business to make a complaint
If you have already opened the message and it promotes a legitimate Australian business, you may wish to contact them by phone or in writing, to make a complaint and ask them to take you off their mailing lists. As legitimate businesses do not operate in the same way as professional spammers, unsubscribing to their emails can also be a low-risk and quick way to prevent future spam.
If an SMS message seems dubious, make a complaint
If you have received a commercial message to your mobile phone and you:
- do not know how the message sender got your mobile telephone number;
- can not identify who the message sender is;
- can not see a way to unsubscribe from receiving the message, e.g. an instruction to reply 'STOP' or 'UNSUB'; or
- have already tried to unsubscribe from receiving messages from this sender, but they have not stopped;
you can make a complaint to the ACMA.
Making a complaint to the ACMA
You can make an enquiry or complaint by completing the online form at www.spam.acma.gov.au. The online complaint form outlines the information that the ACMA requires from you, and provides an option for you to indicate if you would be willing to assist the ACMA in any enforcement actions that may be initiated against the spammer.
Where can I find out more?
For more spam-related information, including frequently asked questions, and complaint and enquiry forms, visit the ACMA website at www.spam.acma.gov.au.
Please note: this document is intended as a guide only and should not be relied on as legal advice or regarded as a substitute for legal advice in individual cases.