Intent of the Unsolicited Electronic Messages Act
The Unsolicited Electronic Messages Act (UEMA), also called the anti-spam law, makes it illegal to:
- send spam to, from or within New Zealand
- use harvesting software to create address lists to send unsolicited commercial electronic messages, eg emails or text messages.
Unsolicited Electronic Messages Act(external link) — Legislation.govt.nz
Your rights under the UEMA
If you receive spam messages, you can complain to the DIA. They can fine an organisation sending the messages.
What is spam?
Spam is unwanted electronic commercial messages including emails, texts, faxes, SMS messages and multi- media message services. Spam is used to:
- promote products or services
- direct you to websites, social media site or shops.
Spammers might harvest email addresses from the internet, eg from websites or discussion boards, and add these to the spammer’s database. Sometimes they hack into — or are given access to — subscriber lists or databases.
Spammers may also use a computer programme to guess your email or phone number based on popular words, names and numbers.
When the UEMA applies
It covers commercial electronic messages, including email, faxes, instant messages and SMS (texts) sent to, from or within New Zealand.
When the UEMA doesn't apply
The UEMA does not cover:
- internet pop-ups
- response to a quote
- confirming a previously agreed arrangement
- warranty information
- factual information about an ongoing relationship, eg gym membership
- employment or benefit information
- products or services relating to a previous transaction.
Businesses can legally send you commercial electronic messages if you consent, eg you signed up to their newsletter or asked for a quote, and the message includes:
- accurate information about the business and its contact details
- a free way to unsubscribe that works within five business days.
Consent is more than just not clicking “unsubscribe”. Businesses may use an existing list or database of customers if their consent is already on record. You can agree verbally but the business should keep a record of this.
If things go wrong
The Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) enforces the anti-spam law. You can complain to the DIA if:
- you did not consent to being contacted
- you unsubscribed and continued to receive spam.
Businesses can be fined up to $500,000 and ordered to:
- pay you compensation for any loss suffered as a result of the spam
- pay damages equal to the profit they made through sending the spam.
Complain about spam(external link) — Department of Internal Affairs