What is spam?
Spam is a generic term used to describe electronic 'junk mail' unwanted messages sent to your email account or mobile phone. These messages vary, but are essentially commercial and often annoying in their sheer volume. They may try to persuade you to buy a product or service, or visit a website where you can make purchases; or they may attempt to trick you into divulging your bank account or credit card details.
In Australia, spam is defined as 'unsolicited commercial electronic messaging'. New Australian legislation relating to spam the Spam Act 2003 came into effect on 10 April 2004. This consumer guide outlines the new law; it also offers practical advice on how you can reduce the amount of spam you receive, and suggestions on what to do when you receive spam
Why is spam a problem?
Spammers flood the Internet with billions of unwanted email messages. This spam causes significant inconvenience to both individuals and businesses: it disrupts email delivery, clogs up computer systems, reduces productivity, wastes time, irritates users and raises the cost of Internet access fees. Many spam messages also contain material that is offensive or fraudulent, and spam is sometimes used to spread computer viruses.back to top
Australia's anti-spam law the Spam Act 2003
Under the Spam Act 2003 it is illegal to send, or cause to be sent, 'unsolicited commercial electronic messages' that have an Australian link. A message has an 'Australian link' if it either originates or was commissioned in Australia, or originates overseas but has been sent to an address accessed in Australia.
The Spam Act covers electronic messages emails, mobile phone text messages (SMS), multimedia messaging (MMS) and instant messaging (iM) of a commercial nature. However, the Act does not cover voice or fax telemarketing. The legislation sets out penalties of up to $1.1 million a day for repeat corporate offenders.
How can I tell if it's spam?
To comply with Australia's spam laws, a commercial electronic message must meet the following conditions. Any message sent to you that doesn't meet all three of these conditions is defined as spam:
A spam message is not necessarily sent out in 'bulk' to numerous addresses under Australian law, a single electronic message can also be considered spam.
What can I do if I receive spam?
If the source seems genuine, contact the business to make a complaint
If you have already opened the message and it promotes a legitimate Australian business, you may wish to contact them by phone or in writing, to make a complaint and ask them to take you off their mailing lists. As legitimate businesses do not operate in the same way as professional spammers, unsubscribing to their emails can also be a low-risk and quick way to prevent future spam. Under Australias spam laws, the business must honour your unsubscribe request within five working days.
Report the spam
You can report spam to the ACA through this website. To report spam, to make a complaint about spam, or to learn more about existing avenues for making a complaint, click here: Spam Reporting, Complaints and Enquiries.
There may be more than one avenue available to you in making a spam complaint. This is due to the fact that not only is a spam message illegal in itself (under the Spam Act 2003, which is enforced by the ACA), but the content of that message may also be illegal under various other laws. The link above explains your options.
Where can I find out more?
General Information, Consumer Guide and FAQs
The ACA has also developed:
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