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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 marketing message you receive 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

Before they send you a marketing message, a sender must be sure they are not breaking the spam rules.

You also have options to stop or complain about spam.

What isn’t spam?

Telemarketing calls are not spam. Different rules apply to these. If you get unwanted calls or faxes, follow the advice on the Do Not Call Register.

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

Spam rules

To send you marketing messages, the sender must:

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

Some organisations can send you marketing messages without permission, 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 permission

There are lots of ways you can give permission 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 get relevant marketing messages if you make your email address or phone number public. If you don't want to receive marketing messages, you should write that with the email or number.  

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

Make a complaint about email spam

Make a complaint about SMS spam

Make a complaint about instant message (IM) spam

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