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Dealing with spam

There are things you can do to reduce or stop spam. You can also make a complaint or forward spam to us.

What is spam?

Spam is an unwanted electronic marketing message you receive, including by:

  • email
  • text
  • instant message.

To be spam, the message must be commercial. That means it must contain one or more of the following:

  • offers
  • advertisements
  • promotions.

Messages are generally not spam if they:

  • have no advertisements
  • are appointment or payment reminders
  • notify you of a service or product fault
  • are about a service you use.

Telemarketing calls are also not spam. Different rules apply to these. Learn more about how to deal with unwanted calls or faxes.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between spam and a scam. Find out more about scams, including how to spot and stop a scam.

Spam rules

There are rules that senders must follow when they send you a marketing message.

To send you marketing messages, the sender must:

  • first have your consent
  • include their contact details in the message
  • have a way for you to say 'stop' to getting messages.

Some organisations have an exemption to send you marketing messages without your consent. However, they must still include their contact details in the message.

These include:

  • registered charities
  • education institutions contacting you as a former or current student
  • government bodies
  • registered political parties.

Ways to give consent

There are lots of ways businesses might seek your express consent to receive marketing messages, including:

  • ticking a box in an online form
  • as part of terms and conditions when entering a competition
  • during a transaction when you are buying products or services (online or in person)
  • over the phone
  • in person.

When providing express consent, you should expect to be informed by clear terms and conditions. These must be readily accessible at the point consent is obtained. They should cover items such as:

  • what it is for (including for what types of products and marketing channels)
  • who will use it (including affiliates and partners)
  • how long it will be used
  • how it can be withdrawn. 

Although less common and reliable, businesses may also be able to infer your consent based on an existing relationship and the type of product being marketed.

You may also be sent marketing messages relevant to your role or position if you make your email address or phone number public. If you don't want to receive marketing messages, you should write that clearly where your email or number is published.  

How to unsubscribe

Businesses must include a way to stop, opt out or unsubscribe from their marketing messages. It must be easy, clear, and at low or no cost to you (a return SMS is OK).

Senders cannot ask you to log into an account or provide personal information to unsubscribe (other than the email or phone number to be unsubscribed) unless you've agreed in advance.

You can unsubscribe at any time by using a provided link or even contacting the business via other channels. Businesses must generally stop sending you marketing within 5 business days of your request.

Get spam smart

Avoiding or reducing spam


  • make informed choices about giving your consent:
    • be wary of competitions – promotions or gift card lotteries (online or in-person) are often designed to obtain your personal information and you may be agreeing to be contacted
    • look out for pre-checked boxes when you buy products or sign up for services – untick them if you can
    • check the terms and conditions to see if you are agreeing to receive marketing
    • check you understand who you are giving consent to and for how long – is it one company, or does it include ‘third parties’ or ‘affiliates’ (which could be anyone)?
    • check how long the consent lasts – do you really want to give consent for long periods?
    • check how you can unsubscribe in future if you want to
  • use the unsubscribe facility (such as a link, or instruction to reply STOP) if you no longer want to receive marketing messages from an organisation
  • block the sender if they continue to send you unwanted marketing messages, using your email filters or your phone settings 
  • contact your telco provider for advice on spam filtering or phone blocking.


  • tick ‘subscribe’ boxes (online or in paper forms) without being sure what you are agreeing to
  • give your contact details for competitions, surveys or rewards systems without being sure what you are agreeing to – if you’re getting something for free, the cost might be your personal information
  • click on links in an email or message if you can’t verify the sender – it could be a scam.

Political messages

Spam rules only apply to commercial electronic messages – those that offer, advertise or promote goods or services. 

An email or SMS seeking to influence your vote or opinion is rarely covered by these rules – they do not need your consent to send it, and do not need to include an unsubscribe.

This may include messages sent during local, state and territory or federal elections, as well as those sent in the lead-up to a referendum or plebiscite. 

Find out more about the regulation of bulk messages under electoral laws.

Complain or forward spam to the ACMA

If you think someone has broken the spam rules, you can complain to us.

You can also forward spam to us. This is not a complaint. It is a quick way to send us a copy of the message you have received to inform our compliance activities. When you forward spam to us, please do not edit the message or change the subject line. You can:

Privacy notice
When you forward email or SMS spam to us, the ACMA will collect the phone number or email address the report was forwarded from, along with any personal information contained in the message (for example, your name, other contact details or opinions). The ACMA uses and stores personal information as needed to inform its anti-spam and anti-scam compliance work. The ACMA is authorised by law to share this information (as stored in its anti-spam database) with other regulators and enforcement agencies that are working to protect the Australian community from spam and scams. For more information about the ACMA’s privacy practices, your rights and how to contact the ACMA with your privacy questions or concerns, please see the ACMA Privacy Policy.

What we can and can’t do

  • We educate consumers and businesses about their rights and responsibilities under spam laws. But we can’t give legal advice.
  • We take complaints and reports from people who think a business has broken the rules. We can’t provide you with outcomes for individual complaints. Rather, we use the information you provide to inform our education, compliance and enforcement work.
  • The more serious or systemic an issue appears, the more likely we are to take compliance action or to investigate.
  • If a business breaks the rules, we can take enforcement action. Read more about actions we take.
  • We can’t block messages sent to your phone or email address.
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