Cutting Through The Spam

Is your inbox overflowing with unsolicited emails? We all find them so annoying.  Approximately 80% of all new emails seem to come from someone I don’t even know, never heard of before and usually trying to sell me stuff. I don’t mind if I have subscribed to your mail or at least if I’ve met you. I do have some rules set up in my Outlook program to sort out certain emails, but the amount of spam emails is just growing! Whilst most of them are spam, it isn’t always the spam

You see it’s all matter of perception. Most people differ on their definitions of what spam is, ranges from the formal definitions such as what is in the Spam Act 2003  (updated early 2016) to “anything I don’t want to see“.

When someone has added me to a Mail Chimp mailing list saying they found my details online and therefore they are allowed to legally add me to their database, I was annoyed; yet they responded with “the information is publicly available”.  But you couldn’t add just anyone to a database unless they opted in which is the problem when people buy database lists which I don’t recommend.

It’s a bit of a grey area, but they can if permission is “inferred”. There has to be a reasonable assumption that your business may use their services.

Inferred permission

What is inferred permission? Determining inferred permission can be a bit tricky.  It is not as simple as, “there is an email address therefore I can email them“.  You need to be 100% certain that you have a potential business relationship with the recipient.  So you can’t assume that just because you offer a service and/or a product that everyone wants it. You have to establish that there is a reasonable assumption your product/service is a fit with their business. Likewise, just because you have met them at a networking event, you can’t assume that they want to hear about you or your product/services.

You need to be able to infer a direct business relationship which is also wanted even though they may not know about you, yet.

A great example is if your business has a website then you don’t automatically need to hear from every SEO specialist.

If my business was a fashion retailer (for example) and I received emails regarding home renovations, then this is an unsolicited email and is absolutely SPAM unless I had been enquiring about such products to renovate my house.

If you may receive emails from businesses you don’t know about, this doesn’t necessarily mean they are spamming you. Therefore, it is quite reasonable that someone can add you to their database because they found your email address on the internet but within reason. It is also up to the sender to provide proof of consent. If someone has handed you their business card or made email contact with your business, that can be deemed inferred permission.

Most email programs, like Mail Chimp, have a policy which are quite comprehensive however as they are usually US programs, they tend to miss some of the finer nuances of the Australian Spam Act. This can lead to some confusion in regards to the question of “did the email respondent give me consent or not” Mail Chimp’s double opt in approach does make it fairly simple in determining expressed permission.

The “inferred permission” in Mail Chimp is a simple tick box situation without any verification when you use the facility to add in “new subscribers” to your list manually.

But beware as it isn’t always such a good idea. If someone makes a complaint about an email you sent them, then Mail Chimp won’t take it to kindly if you can’t explain yourself. So if you are 100% certain you have their permission then don’t add anyone to you list. When someone contacts you or hands you a business card, let them know that you will add them to your mail list. If your defence is “inferred permission”, you better know the Spam Act 2003 if you’re asked to explain yourself.