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What is spam?

Spam is an unwanted email or message that advertises goods or services.

How do I know it's 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.

Find out more about how to stop or complain about spam.

What isn’t spam?

Messages are 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. If you get unwanted calls or faxes, follow the advice on the Do Not Call Register.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between spam and a scam. Find out more about scams and 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 can send you marketing messages without your consent, but 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 you can give consent to receive marketing messages, such as:

  • ticking a box in an online form
  • entering a competition
  • buying products or services
  • over the phone
  • in person.

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.  

Learn more about how to deal with spam.

If a sender breaks the spam rules, you can complain.

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).

If you click on a link, 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).

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.


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