Steve Osborne
Steve Osborne director at Stephen Roger Osborne

Will this approach be considered SPAM?

A client wants to send an EDM (split according to location) to several thousand public servants inviting them to click on a link that takes them to a sales page. All these addresses have been collected manually, i.e. no address-harvesting software has been employed. This can be substantiated. My concern is over whether the message will be considered SPAM and the subsequent fallout and damage to my client’s reputation should they commit an offence by contacting these people. Based on the ACMA guidelines pertaining to email messages – in particular Schedule 2 Consent 4. Conspicuous publication – how should we proceed, assuming the message complies with all other Designated Commercial Message conditions. What is your opinion regarding the link between each recipient's job and the message content? What tests would we need to do to show this?

Jef Lippiatt

Jef Lippiatt, Owner at Startup Chucktown

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I'm not a lawyer, but I would err on the side of caution. If the users did not explicitly sign up for receiving updates, newsletters or promotions it potentially could be seen as spam. It may not be seen as SPAM holistically by every person that receives the message (some may find it useful), but if enough people are unhappy about it watch out.

I will say that is not always the case, but specifically if the goal is to sell something you may have less leverage. I have received several emails over the last 2 years that were things I did not sign up for, however, my email address was pulled from a public resource (Github) but the message was about conducting research for higher education purposes by students and/or faculty.

I suppose I could have seen that email as SPAM, but the email was polite and transparent about several things.

  • WHERE - they mentioned where they found my email address
  • WHY - they made it clear that participation was optional but helpful (for a survey)
  • HOW - they let me know how the information I entered in the survey would be used
  • WHEN - they let me know that when all the surveys were complete the results would be shared with me

Keep in mind one other thing, they also personalized the email that I received. It did not appear to have been a message that was sent to multiple (or hundreds) of people. My name was specifically used in the email. It is possible it was done through an email marketing provider (such as MailChimp) however, I saw no indication of 3rd party branding on the message.

I would still say if you proceed, do so with caution. Perhaps if you are dead set on going down the path you mentioned, try sending the communication to only a handful of people first (such as 10 to 30 people). See what types of responses you are getting back (if any) or if it improves click through rate or sales.

I would say you should still seek advice from an attorney before moving forward.

Rebecca Carroll-Bell

Rebecca Carroll-Bell at

Hi Steve, Are the intended recipients all in one state or are they all over Australia/the world? How has your client collected the email addresses? What is the overall purpose they are trying to achieve? Personally, if I have no connection to the sender and it is obvious they have simply copied and pasted my email address from a publication of mine, I delete the message and often block the sender without giving the text more than a cursory glance. Is there not a better way to get in touch with the desired target audience? Perhaps approach the relevant union or the department's social club? When I worked as a public servant our social clubs secured all sorts of deal for us form cheap movie tickets to discounted entry to the International Flower & Garden Show.

Rebecca Carroll-Bell

Rebecca Carroll-Bell at

Hi Steve,

Further to my comments above, an article came upon Flying Solo that may assist:

Sending emails: are you breaking the law?


Bec CB

Steve Osborne

Steve Osborne, director at Stephen Roger Osborne

Thanks Bec, appreciate your response. I came across the same article and repeated the question. The issue pertains to a specific piece of text used in the Guidelines re: inferred consent and what sort of interpretation can be derived. All your response questions above have been considered already.