Ask LH: What Can I Do About All This Spam?

Dear Lifehacker, I have just tried to unsubscribe from a marketing email from a business who I'd previously bought some items from in-store. However, when I clicked the unsubscribe link it automatically subscribed me to another email marketing service. Since then I have been receiving at least one spam email every 20 minutes from the new list. Is there any recourse against this business for providing a dodgy unsubscribe link? Thanks, Fed Up

Spam image from Shutterstock

Dear FU,

Australia has pretty strict laws when it comes to electronic newsletters. Under the Spam Act 2003, every commercial electronic message must contain a functional and legitimate 'unsubscribe' function that will terminate all future messages.

As explained on the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) website:

An unsubscribe facility must satisfy the following:  

  • 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).

While an unsubscribe link can take you to an external website, it's certainly not supposed to sign you up for additional services without your consent. This business should be worried — in the past, companies such as Greys Online, Tiger Airways, Virgin and Select Print Solutions have been slapped with huge fines for failing to provide proper unsubscribe facilities.

You can contact ACMA and report the issue here. In the meantime, you should be able to relegate the offending newsletters to your trash folder by tweaking your email's spam filter. Out of sight, out of mind.

Alternatively, you could give them a taste of their own medicine and automatically forward all incoming newsletters back to the sender. (Click here to do this on Gmail, for example.)

If any readers have additional anti-spam solutions up their sleeve, let FU know in the comments section below.

Cheers Lifehacker

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