Australian Anti-spam Laws

On the 2nd of December, 2003, the Anti-Spam Act 2003 passed the Australian Senate. One week later, the US equivalent, the CAN-SPAM Act was passed by the US Congress. Australia's laws will come into force on the 11th of April, 2004. For anyone with an email address, the natural first response is 'about time'.

However, it isn't quite that simple. The reality of the Act in Australia is that it can be used by the Australian Communications Authority to regulate the e-marketing industry in much the same way as it regulates the Telecommunications industry. This sounds great, but with most spam coming from offshore, and the Internet being a global communications tool, national boundaries are less relevant than in almost any other kind of activity.

However, while the act may be unable to stop spam from China finding its way into your inbox, it may have an impact on how your business uses email and the internet to communicate with customers if you are based in Australia.

"The Australian Government does not pretend that legislation alone will be the silver bullet to address this global nuisance," a statement from the minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Daryl Williams' office read. "Spam poses a complex problem for the international community and the solution is not straight-forward."

For many people, this 'nuisance' as the Minister described it is very serious business. Spam was estimated to cost the global business community upwards of $20 billion per year in an EU report in 2001. Many commentators are predicting that for the first time there will be more spam messages than legitimate emails flowing through the internet in 2004. Other studies have shown that this can equate to an annual burden of around $1000 for every employee in lost productivity due to spam. This legislation hopes to reduce this burden on Australian businesses.

More importantly for Australia companies, by outlawing the sending of spam, the Australian Government is telling the world "you can trust email from Australia". Considering Australia is connected to the same networks as Asia (where most spam comes from around the world), this 'coming clean' is very important to ensure we are not marooned in the global marketplace.

The new legislation provides penalties for businesses or individuals for sending bulk email that is unsolicited, supports or contains illegal or offensive content, is fraudulent or otherwise deceptive in nature, or does not give the receiver a valid mechanism to opt out of receiving further messages.

Against this backdrop, however, it is very important to remember the many benefits of email - low cost, high personalisation, quick delivery and response - and realise that this law is levelling the playing field, and should make it easier for legitimate business communication, like this newsletter, to get through. In a more demanding environment, the right tools can make all the difference between hassle and heaven.

Internetrix Connect is a subscription-based e-newsletter tool, which can allow you to email clients about relevant business issues through alerts and newsletters.

Importantly, Connect provides a facility for customers to unsubscribe from the list if they wish, and receive only the information relevant to their needs - key demands of the anti-spam laws. Connect supports targeted marketing by personalising each email for the specific client. Our engineers are currently working on the next generation of Connect, which will include new features in a new edition - stand by for more information in next month's Newsletter.

The legislation is designed to stop the myriad of "get rich quick" schemes, pornography and illegal gambling emails from reaching Australian inboxes. The current regulation is based on an industry code of practice, while the offenders lie outside of this accountability. The legislation will help deter these offenders by introducing civil law suits and large monetary fines for the provocateur.

This legislation combines with similar legislation in the US and Europe to return the Internet and email communications to the value added business communication tool it has the potential to be. Combined with technology, we all hope it can finally make an impact at slowing the rapid growth of spam around the world.

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