Unsubscribe functionality in emails

Unsubscribe Functionality in Email

Upside.Digital have been working with the ACMA recently on educating both publishers and advertisers on what we see are key areas which publishers and advertisers do not have a clear understanding, and to set some guidelines around these sections.

It should be noted that these guidelines refer to “solus emails” being sent by publishers on behalf of advertisers promoting their product or service. If you are sending any other commercial emails and are unclear how the sections within the Spam Act apply to you, you should seek legal advice.

There are three key elements to the Spam Act 2003 which are:

Unsubscribe functionality in emails is our last part of Upside.Digital’s Spam Act series, where we go through everything you need to know to comply with the spam laws, and make sure your emails are not considered spam.  Our other articles include:

In this final article we go through the requirements of section 18 in the Spam Act: Commercial electronic messages must contain a functional unsubscribe facility.

It might sounds straight forward and clear, and although it is probably the easiest section to comply with, many publishers still fail to fully understand the requirements or neglect to fully comply with them. Simply put, every single email send must include the possibility for the user to unsubscribe from further sends. However, what many publisher’s and advertisers do not know is that the recipient needs to be able to unsubscribe not only from the sender of the email, but also from the authoriser of the email. More on this important part later.

Unsubscribe facility means either an unsubscribe link or an electronic address that the recipient of the mail can use to tell the sender to not continue sending mails. Further, the sender must make it as easy as possible for the recipient to unsubscribe, if there is a wish to do so.

The ACMA have listed the following as minimum requirements for the unsubscribe facility:

  • it must remain functional for at least 30 days after the original message was sent
  • it must allow the unsubscribe message to be sent to whoever authorised the sending of the message, not necessarily any third party that sent it on their behalf
  • unsubscribe instructions must be presented in a clear and conspicuous way
  • a request to unsubscribe must be honoured within five working days
  • unsubscribing must be at low cost, or no cost, to the user (for example, in the case of SMS unsubscribe facilities, a 1800-telephone number would be acceptable).

Where most publishers and advertisers fail and have not put any processes in place for, is section 2: “it must allow the unsubscribe message to be sent to whoever authorised the sending of the message, not necessarily any third party that sent it on their behalf”.

This means that if a recipient wants to unsubscribe from any further sends from the Advertiser, this must be facilitated for. Most publishers only make it possible for the recipient to unsubscribe from that specific publisher, but not from the advertiser. To enable this, either the publisher need to collect any unsubscribes and share them with the advertiser, who is then responsible for sharing this unsubscribe list with any publishers interested in promoting them, or there needs to be a direct unsubscribe functionality to the advertiser where the recipient can unsubscribe.

This is a less known fact and many publishers do not comply to this part of the Spam Act.

Below an example, illustrating how this could be implemented in an email:

Unsubscribe facility for Advertisers and Publishers

If you’re not sure what this means for you as an advertiser or publisher, please visit the ACMA’s website for further guidance or seek independent legal advice.

References and useful links:

The Spam Act 2003: http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/consol_act/sa200366

Mandatory unsubscribe facility: http://www.acma.gov.au/Industry/Marketers/Anti-Spam/Ensuring-you-dont-spam/mandatory-unsubscribe-ability-ensuring-you-dont-spam-i-acma

Unsubscribe ability is mandatory: http://www.acma.gov.au/theACMA/spam-unsubscribe-ability-is-mandatory