New Zealand's anti-spam laws

The New Zealand government has just introduced new anti-spam legislation which came into effect yesterday. Basically, this makes it illegal for New Zealand businesses to send unsolicited emails, and the penalties can be up to $500,000 for companies or $200,000 for individuals, so fairly hefty.

The law applies to people in New Zealand sending spam, but there should also be some caution taken by those sending spam to New Zealand.
The purposes of the Act are to prohibit unsolicited commercial electronic messages (spam) with a New Zealand link (i.e. messages sent to, from or within New Zealand)

Clearly as an internet marketer, this effects me. Any newsletter campaigns I run are totally opt-in anyway, but I thought I better read things under a microscope anyway, not wanting to wear a half million dollar fine.


Check this one out, taken from the Dept of Internal Affairs website.

Friend get friend campaigns, or 'viral marketing', usually encourage subscribers to provide the name and email address of a friend who is then sent a commercial electronic message and emailed by the company or promoter encouraging them to opt in/register.

An electronic message such as this would be unsolicited because the friend has not consented to receiving the message from the company or promoter. Consequently if the message was commercial (i.e. marketing or promoting goods, services, land, a business or investment opportunity) it would be considered spam.

I had to read that bit twice because I didn't quite believe it at first. This means it's no longer legal for websites to have a "tell a friend" button, something I consider a really cool feature of news related websites. My wife spends all day sending me "check this property" type emails, as we are looking for a new place to live. As far as I can tell, the property websites are breaking the law by sending me unsolicited commercial email.

Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn

I'm frequently getting hit by "Your friend XXXXXXX wants you to join Facebook" type emails. OK, so I'm a member now and have consented to getting their spam, but the first email sent could be considered unsolicited.

I haven't read the act in enough detail to decide what the implications are for companies like Facebook sending their "Your friend wants you to join" emails. But by my interpretation it's bad news either way.


  1. It's ok for non-NZ sites like Facebook to send these emails, but not ok for NZ sites, or...
  2. It's not ok for any site to send these emails to New Zealand.

I can't say I like double standards, so option one doesn't particularly appeal to me. But then option 2 doesn't work either - how are overseas companies to know about some obscure legislation in a little country with 4 million people?


Clearly, I'm out of my depth here, and I'll need to get some opinions from the legal beagles to find out what this all really means.

I'll be sad to see the end of the "tell a friend" feature, if that's the outcome of all this.
Digg StumbleUpon technorati blinklist furl reddit sphinn