The Department of Internal Affairs

Te Tari Taiwhenua | Department of Internal Affairs

Building a safe, prosperous and respected nation


Beware using purchased email addresses

30 June 2010

Companies marketing or promoting their services with email addresses purchased from database marketing companies risk breaking anti-spam law, the Department of Internal Affairs warned today.

The Department is investigating eight companies that have used emails to market and promote their own goods with addresses purchased from the same company. The Unsolicited Electronic Messages Act (UEM) prohibits commercial spam — email, instant messaging, SMS and MMS (text and image-based mobile phone messaging).

Anti-spam Compliance Manager, Steve O’Brien said the Department has previously warned of the risks of using purchased addresses and initially was understanding that some companies may have been misled about recipients’ consent to receive commercial electronic messages. But it is now dealing with a run of complaints.

"Just because an email address is on a database that can be purchased and carries a classification, doesn't mean that consent exists," Mr O’Brien said. "Similarly, just because a company’s email address can be found on the Internet does not necessarily mean that it has been ‘conspicuously published’.

“It is the sender of a commercial email or SMS text who must be able to prove they have the recipient’s consent, not the seller of the database.”

The UEM Act provides that deemed consent exists if:
an electronic address has been conspicuously published by a person in a business or official capacity, and
it is not accompanied by a statement requesting that no unsolicited messages be sent to that address, and
the message is relevant to the recipient's business, role, function or duties in a business or official capacity.

If a sender is unable to satisfy the Department that they have consent to send a commercial electronic message, then a breach of the Act has occurred. Penalties under the Act range from written warnings, through to infringement notices and pecuniary penalties.

Media contact:
Trevor Henry, communications adviser, Department of Internal Affairs
Ph 04 495 7211; cell 0275 843 679