Purchased lists—is the reward worth the risk to your reputation? | ACMA


04 September, 2013 02:16 PM


Purchased lists—is the reward worth the risk to your reputation?

By Editor

If you’re looking to expand your business, the lure of a purchased marketing list or database as a source of potential customers may be too great to ignore. But before you use one, let’s look at the risks.

Purchased lists and databases have the potential to wreak havoc on your reputation. People don’t usually appreciate receiving unsolicited messages. By using a purchased list, you’ll almost certainly be e-marketing to people who don’t know you or your business.

Beware—using a purchased list may also mean you’re not complying with the consent provisions of the Spam Act.

It’s a double opt-in list, so it must be OK!

‘But the website that I bought it from said that the list is 100 per cent opt-in.’

Well, it might be—but you should make sure you know how the addresses on the list were gathered and exactly what people have agreed to in signing up. For example, the list may have been compiled from people agreeing to receive marketing emails from ‘Company A Pty Ltd’—but this doesn’t mean they want to receive messages from you.

Ask yourself—Do I want to get messages I didn’t agree to receive? Would I buy from that company? Your answers should tell you that sending messages to people without their consent is a bad idea. It is likely to create frustration towards your business or brand. And that is not a good thing for your sales or your reputation.

It’s also possible that the list has been compiled from publicly listed addresses. Relying on this practice for consent can be risky. Our previous post on conspicuous publication explains why.

So, does this mean I can’t use a purchased list?

No. It just means you have to weigh up the risks to your business’s reputation and be mindful of your obligations under the Spam Act. Remember, it is easy to ruin your reputation as a business or e-marketer but much harder to win it back.


Before you spend your hard-earned cash on a purchased list for e-marketing, ask yourself:
  • Where did the information on the list come from?
  • Can I show that I have consent if required?
  • What can the list provider tell me about how they got the addresses?
  • Is it likely the person would expect to receive this message?
  • Will the person know who I am and why they are receiving the message?
  • Could sending the message damage my reputation?

And remember, under the Spam Act it’s up to the sender to prove that consent exists.