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01 Jun 2010

The Unsolicited Electronic Messages Act 2007 is something that a New Zealand business can’t ignore. People’s tolerance of spam is ever decreasing, and legitimate businesses are expected to have email policies in place which comply with the Act. Not to have one exposes you to prosecution, but perhaps more importantly, could seriously damage your reputation in the marketplace.
How do you comply?
There are four basic things which businesses need to do if they are going to send promotional emails or text messages:

  •     Have consent from the recipient to send the email;

  •     Identify yourself as the sender by name and postal address;

  •     Make sure all your promotional emails have an unsubscribe link;

  •     Process any unsubscribe requests promptly.

The last three of these rules are pretty easy to comply with providing you have a system in place. The danger in not having a system in place is that you forget to comply. The best way to avoid this is to use a reputable auto-responder or managed email service, then everything happens automatically for you and you don’t need to remember to comply. Make sure you have a policy on compliance that your staff can read and understand. So that just leaves us with the problem of consent...
Do you really have consent?
The Act prescribes that you are deemed guilty unless you can prove you have consent. Again, using an auto-responder or managed email service helps if your subscribers are collected from a web-form which is part and parcel of that service. Your auto-responder service will have the records of your subscriber opting in. Difficulties arise with purchased lists, ex-customers, subscribers who have opted in to something else, and word-of-mouth referrals.
With purchased lists you need some written reassurance from the organisation supplying the list that the email addresses have been collated lawfully. Since you can never be completely sure about this, purchased lists should be avoided. Ex-customers are another problem unless your terms of business state that you can continue to send them promotional material. Also, be aware that someone who buys something online doesn’t necessarily consent to receive promotional material unless they have separately opted in. If in doubt whether your database is clean, send an email asking whether your subscribers want to remain on your list. And if you receive a word-of-mouth referral and make contact by email, always get that person’s consent before sending any promotional material. 

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