What if the email you send is really a spam?

01:53, Apr 22 2013

Are you inadvertently guilty of sending spam email?

How many spam emails landed in your digital inbox today?

How many spam emails do you send?

When you think of 'spam email' you probably think of the email advising you've won an offshore lottery... or you've got a long lost relative you've never heard of who's left you squillions of dollars... or the IRD wants to send you your tax refund... and all you have to do is click this link to confirm, right...?

So therefore, because you've never, ever, not-once-in-your-life sent an email like that you can categorically state, hand-on-heart, you don't send spam emails. Right...?

But what if you were to learn that spam email can be just one single, solitary email? Under kiwi law, an unsolicited email sent to just one person can be categorised as 'spam'; just because you're not emailing out in bulk doesn't mean you're not spamming.

You see, sending an email to someone without their permission or without due reason, (ie, unsolicited), could be regarded as spamming.

As you can imagine, it's not a good look to run afoul of the Unsolicited Electronic Messages Act 2007 - that's the official name to what we commonly refer to as the Anti-Spam Act here in New Zealand. Being found guilty could be very expensive (there's a maximum $500,000 fine).

Moreover, we're talking government department here so there'd be a lot of government- department-type forms to fill out (probably in triplicate) and who needs more of those?

The NZ Act applies to electronic messages, ie email, instant messages and SMS (txt) with a New Zealand link (from, to, within) that are commercial in nature. The Act excludes voice but an amendment made in 2011 now includes fax messages.

The Act has three steps you must take to ensure you're not spamming.

1. You must have the recipient's consent (expressed, inferred or deemed).

2. Your business's full contact details must be conspicuously displayed in your email;

3. The recipients must be able to unsubscribe.

In addition, there are also six classifications whereby a commercial message (email, SMS,

fax) is not deemed to be spam (and therefore doesn't require any opt-out info, etc).

In a nutshell these include:

1. Response to a quote;

2. Confirmation of a previously agreed arrangement;

3. Warranty information;

4. Factual information regarding an ongoing relationship (eg, membership);

5. Employment or benefit information;

6. Goods or services relating to a previous transaction.

It's a good idea to do a bit more reading and research of your own because of the curly nature of "do you send spam emails?" You can start by reading our Anti-Spam Act 101-type intro article or by visiting the Department of Internal Affairs' website. This short link here will take you directly to an easy-to-read PDF prepared by the DIA.

- Julie South is a social media and digital marketer with Hamilton company HaloBiz.