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Clean up your email

The New Zealand Unsolicited Electronic Messages Bill draws closer to becoming law within New Zealand and all businesses who send email to their customers should now be looking at their current email practices.

Why Should You Be Concerned About the Anti-Spam Law?
Now you might not care or believe that the new anti-spam law will affect your business but how would you deal with a person who uses the internet to launch a full scale war against you and your business by posting everywhere they can that you are a spammer and your business earns a profit by spamming people? Your brand suffers and you start losing business and the only thing you did was send the person an email after their email address was entered into your website requesting more information from your business. Does this sound absurd? No, it happens frequently and if you want a real life example of a reputable company who faced this issue click on the article link in the resources section below.

What Action Do You Need To Take Now?
I suggest you commence reviewing your current email marketing processes and to ensure you are complaint because there are people out there that will use the anti-spam law to justify their actions for attempting to destroy your brand and reputation.

This article is about helping you start cleaning up your email marketing processes in readiness for the new law – don’t forget the law is not only about protecting the rights of the email recipient but also the email sender – that’s you.

I forecast the Unsolicited Electronic Messages Bill will become law in 2007 probably near or in the last quarter of 2007 so it is time start thinking about compliance today!

The Unsolicited Electronic Messages Bill Explained
My interpretation of the bill suggests that when it becomes law Businesses and Individuals alike will have six months to get their email processes and systems compliant. That is not a lot time to turn processes around in my humble opinion. I predict it will take most businesses a minimum of three months to clean up their current mailing lists and seek consent from existing customers then upgrading or implementing systems to help with compliance such as keeping records of subscribers consenting to receive email and processing unsubscribe requests may stretch that timeframe out further.

The Bill if passed in its current form will prohibit the sending of “commercial electronic messages” unless the recipient has consented to receive the messages BEFORE a message is sent.

The term “commercial electronic message” includes an electronic message (an email, text, instant message, but not a voice call or facsimile) that markets or promotes goods, services, land, or business opportunities. The law will apply to messages with links to another message or website that is commercial.

The sender must be able to prove that consent has been given by the recipient. The consent can either be:

  • “express” – this form of consent can be given by the person responsible for the electronic address (or by any person who uses that address);
  • “inferred” – from the conduct, business and other relationships of the persons concerned.
    The Bill is not specific as to when the consent can be reasonably “inferred” and when it cannot. However, regulations may be introduced which provide further guidance on where to draw the line; and
  • “deemed” – this applies where a person’s electronic address is published in an official or business capacity. For example, an email address on a business website will be “deemed” consent so long as the message sent is relevant to the business or role of the person responsible for that address. However, there will be no deemed consent if the website expressly states that the person responsible for the address does not wish to receive unsolicited electronic messages.

Where to Start?
To help you on your way here is an important task we give our customers who engage us to improve their email marketing processes.

Who or what is currently sending commercial emails in your business?

If I asked you if you knew exactly how many emails your customers and prospects receive from your business per month would you know? Each department of your business may be sending emails to your customers and this email communication needs to be assessed for compliance.

The task here is to identify every type of email you send to your clients as a Business and review the content. Look for:

A) Any promotional content within the message that gets sent to your clients. If you find that type of content then you may need to get permission from your client unless of course you have done so already (I hear a Tui Ad!).

B) Does the email contain contact details for your business and who authorised the sending of that message? If not you will need to add this information as the law will require that the message clearly identifies the person who authorises sending the message. Even if the message is not promotional in its content this is still good practice to inform the recipient.

C) If the email is sent to a mailing list say your monthly newsletter then does it provide an unsubscribe link or information on how to unsubscribe within the content. The bill is very vague on this requirement. All it seems to state is:

“unless the sender and the receiver agree otherwise, all messages must contain a functional unsubscribe facility that allows the recipient (at no cost) to inform the sender that no unsolicited electronic messages should be sent.”

To be safe I would add an unsubscribe link or unsubscribe statement within all these types of messages.

D) Is there any automated systems within your business that send out emails? For example does your merchant system send out an automated receipt upon online payment? Does that system send out emails to clients or prospects?

We had one client who told us that they found by accident an outdated promotion of a product (that they did not sell anymore) within a “receipt of transaction” email that was sent to the purchaser. The way they found out was a person rang them and wanted to take advantage of the “special deal” in the email!

Once you have identified all the commercial emails sent via your business review the content and check if any mention of promoting goods and/or services is present. If so decide if it should be within the content or not. If you do believe the promotional content is required you may need to seek consent from the recipient.

By starting to identify who you are sending information to and which department of your business is sending commercial email you are well on the way to identifying where compliance needs to happen.

There are many more tasks that you will need to do for compliance, however taking this action is a good starting point.

Court sides with alleged ‘vacation’ spammer

Anti Spam Compliance Solutions For You & Your Business

To see how we can help you and your business comply with the NZ Anti-SPAM Act click here

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