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Why you shouldn’t add people to your email or newsletter list

Recently I was having a conversation with a client around the rules and regulations of adding people to your email or newsletter list and whether or not they needed permission.

They had received advice from a very expensive “specialist company” that they could just go ahead and add anyone to their list without their permission!


If you send or have someone else send out your marketing emails or messages, you need to know about spam laws. The Spam Act 2003 sets out your responsibilities under Australian law. So how can you ensure that you comply? Read on…

How to comply

If you plan to send marketing messages or emails, you must first have permission from the person who will receive them.

Even if someone else is sending out your marketing messages for you, you must still have permission from each person who will receive your messages.

After you get permission, you must ensure your message:

  • identifies you as the sender
  • contains your contact details
  • makes it easy to unsubscribe

If you having anyone on your list that is in the EU, then you must also comply with GDPR.


There are two types of permission that you can receive:

  • Express
  • Inferred

Express permission

A person who gives express permission knows and accepts that they will receive marketing emails or messages from you.

People can give express permission by one of the following:

  • filling in a form
  • ticking a box on a website
  • over the phone
  • face to face

You cannot send an electronic message to ask for permission, because this is a marketing message. Always ensure that you have kept a record when a person gives express permission (and when they sign up via your website, this is the easiest way to have it!).

Did you know? Under the Act, it’s up to you to prove that you got a person’s permission.

Inferred permission

You may infer that a person gives permission to get your marketing messages if you can satisfy both of the following:

  • they are a current customer
  • the message you want to send is related to the product or service they already bought from you

Otherwise, you may infer permission if you can satisfy all of the following:

  • the person made their email address or phone number public, such as online or in a directory
  • the person does not state that they do not want commercial messages
  • the phone number or email is for an individual or office holder
  • the subject of your message relates directly to the person’s role or function
  • there is a link between what you are promoting and the person getting the message

Your Responsibilities

Often people think that buying a list is the easy way to gather details so they can start to email. However, often these people are not your ideal customer and chances are, they will quickly unsubscribe or report you for spamming them!

Did you know? Under the Spam Act, you cannot use or supply a list that has been created with address-harvesting software or use or supply address-harvesting software.

It is also against the spam rules to:

  • help, guide or work with another person to break the spam rules
  • encourage another person to break the spam rules
  • be directly or indirectly, knowingly concerned with breaking the spam rules

So tell me, how do you gather your email marketing lists?

And if you need any assistance with setting up an email campaign or automation, be sure to send me an email!

Until next time!