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Your guide to SMS anti-spam and opt-out rules in Australia.

To send text messages to your customers, it’s important to understand and follow the rules. If you don’t, hefty fines and penalties could come your way — not to mention costly damage to your reputation.

The good news? SMS compliance isn’t hard. Take five to wrap your head around how Australia’s anti-spam rules apply to SMS, and then make sure you’re following them.

JUST SO YOU KNOW, WE CAN’T GIVE LEGAL ADVICE: This blog contains general information. The contents of this blog do not constitute legal advice, are not intended to be legal advice, and should not be relied on as such. It’s important to seek your own legal advice about text messaging rules and regulations.

We also recommend you check in with the organisations enforcing the rules, such as the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

First up, follow these guiding principles.

In Australia, if you plan to use SMS for marketing, you’ll need to comply with the Spam Act 2003. In a nutshell, this Act requires that you:

  1. Register your Sender ID. Your Sender ID must be approved by ACMA before you start sending.
  2. Get consent. This can either be express consent, where a recipient signs up to get your messages; or inferred consent, if they are already doing business with you.
  3. Identify yourself.  Your message needs to clearly show who you are. Using an alpha tag or dedicated number is helpful here.
  4. Provide an unsubscribe option. Every SMS should include an opt-out option. And, of course, if a customer opts out then you need to honour this.

Let’s take a look at each of these points in more detail.

Snap up a Sender ID.

The Australian government is cracking down on scammers with a new SMS Sender ID registry, announced as part of the 2023-24 Budget. Soon, all businesses will need to register a Sender ID and get it approved before any text messages with Sender IDs can be sent.

The registry will help the authorities track and trace numbers, in a bid to stamp down on fraudulent messages.

HERE’S A TIP: It’s possible to register your Sender ID through Sinch MessageMedia as an alpha tag. Simply choose from the alpha Tag options in our Numbers and Channels section.

Get a thumbs-up from every customer.

You need consent from customers before you start sending them messages. According to the Spam Act, this can either be:

  • Express consent. This is where a customer explicitly ticks a check-box or says a big ‘yes’ to getting promotional messages from you.
  • Inferred consent. This is where a customer is already doing business with you, and would expect to receive marketing messages from you.

Because inferred consent can be a little harder to prove, we recommend that you aim to get express consent before you send marketing messages to your customers. Adding a simple tick-box at your checkout with a line that says something like, “Yes, please send me the occasional marketing message”, should do the trick.

Hey, Customer, it’s me, Marketer.

The Spam Act spells out the rules pretty clearly. You need to make yourself known when sending a marketing SMS out to customers.

Identifying yourself can be as simple as including your business name in the actual text message — for example, “Get 20% at ShoeHaus this weekend.” By adding your business name, then your customers can easily work out who the message is from.

Another way to identify yourself is by using an alpha tag. If you can snag an alpha tag that literally spells out your business name, then you will be instantly recognisable.

Give everyone an easy way out.

Opting out. It’s a must to include in every marketing or promotional message you send.

All you need to do is provide actionable instructions on how to unsubscribe. This could be as simple as “Reply STOP to unsubscribe” (just note, you’d need two-way texting enabled for this approach). Or, you could provide a link to an unsubscribe form, like “To unsubscribe, go to http://nxt.to/123”.

Then, obviously, you need to stay on top of all unsubscribe requests — diligently removing the customer from your marketing database.

Failure to comply could cost you. One Australian financial institution sent over three million commercial emails and text messages without an unsubscribe function — and duly copped a massive $1.55 million fine from ACMA. Ouch.

Got more questions about the Spam Act or opt-out rules?

The Sinch MessageMedia team is here to help. If there’s anything you’re not clear about, please get in touch.

If you’re sending in the United States, brush up on compliance rules in the US.