Unsolicited Texts: Are They Legal as Clive Palmer Claims?
Ever received a random text that appears to be spam? Find out if they’re legal here.
Clive Palmer yesterday issued a clear “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop” to the Australian public in regards to the unsolicited text messages sent out encouraging us to vote for his United Australia party. The messages that United Australia have been sending out contain party slogans and general campaign material. The texts reached over 5 million phones, with the numbers legally purchased from an undisclosed advertising agency. Many Australians are unsure as to why they were recipients of these messages, and how the party got their numbers. There was also a general skepticism as to whether this practice is actually legal.
Clive Palmer hit back at the disgruntled public, claiming the texts are completely legal, pointing to the provisions of the Privacy Act as justification. He believes that under the legislation all registered political parties can contact Australians using text messages. Technically speaking Clive’s got this one right, and there’s nothing we can really do about it. A minor correction to Clive’s return serve though, is that the exemption allowing political parties to send these type of messages is actually found in the Spam Act .
This legislation specifically bans commercial messages that spam consumers. A commercial message essentially means that the contents of the texts have to be offering or promoting a sale. However, the Act does list a number of exceptions to this provision. Messages can be legally sent to anyone as long as they come from a government body, registered political party, registered charities and educational institutions. There is no requirement of consent from the recipient, however the message must display clearly who has authorised the text.
Screenshots of Palmer’s geo specific messages confirm that the simple requirements of the legislation are present. The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) were also able to verify Palmer’s claims of legality. The authority’s website conveys that a breach is not apparent, as the messages do not facilitate any form of sale. The ACMA is responsible for administering the provisions of the Spam Act as well as responding to spam related complaints.
What You Can Do?
In cases like this, it is difficult to prevent and stop these types of unsolicited messages from reaching your phone. With no clear method available to unsubscribe, your best option is to block the number that links to the text. In addition, you can make a complaint to ACMA, although this wont stop you receiving any messages in the future. If unsolicited messages become a significant issue and you feel they do breach the relevant laws, the advice of a privacy lawyer may be of use.
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Chris is a member of the content team at Lawpath. He is currently studying a Bachelor of Business and Bachelor of Laws at UTS. He is interested in how marketing communication strategies can influence the future of the legal industry.