Report a scam

Report a scam to Netsafe.org.nz(external link) or 0508 638 723. They will direct you to the organisation best able to investigate or advise you on various types of scams or frauds.

Your rights with spam and cyber bullying, and how to remove harmful content that affects you or your family online.

Harmful online material or cyber bullying

Harmful digital communication or cyber bullying is harmful material posted online through emails, text, websites, applications or social media. It includes:

  • sending or publishing threatening or offensive material
  • spreading damaging rumours
  • sending or publishing sensitive personal information, such as embarrassing photos and videos.

The Harmful Digital Communications Act partly came into effect on 3 July 2015 to prevent cyber bullying and to provide a process for removing any harmful content quickly.

Spam or unwanted commercial digital messages

The Unsolicited Electronic Messages Act covers spam, but not internet pop-ups or voice telemarketing. Its purpose is to prevent spam sent to or within New Zealand and to promote responsible electronic marketing.

Under this Act, spam is any unwanted electronic communications including commercial email, faxes, texts and image-based messages you receive without having requested them. Spam emails are used by businesses as marketing tools to promote products and services.

Electronic commercial mail is not included as spam when it is:

  • a response to a quote
  • confirmation of a previously agreed arrangement
  • warranty information
  • factual information regarding an ongoing relationship, eg membership
  • employment or benefit information
  • products or services relating to a previous transaction.

How to avoid spam

Some tips to avoid spam include:

  • Think carefully about posting personal information, including your email address on the internet. Also think carefully about mailing lists you choose to sign up for.
  • Give your email address to people and organisations you know and trust.
  • If you must give your email address to an unknown organisation look for options, such as tick boxes, that state you won't be sent further offers or information.

Visit the Department of Internal Affairs' website (external link)to find out more about avoiding spam.

Harmful digital communications

You (or someone on your behalf) have the right to complain about harmful or illegal content. Complain to the online content host of a website, blog, social media site, or to the phone company.

It is now illegal under the Harmful Digital Communications Act(external link) to:

  • send messages or post material (pictures, photos, videos) online that are intended to cause harm, and does in fact do so (includes cyberbullying)
  • incite others online to commit suicide (even when the person doesn’t in fact do so).

Digital communication is defined widely to include any form of electronic message such as texts, photos, pictures, recordings etc.

The test for determining what is a harmful digital communication is whether the communication was designed to cause serious emotional distress. This can be very wide in its scope.

There are 10 communication principles(external link) to guide you on how to communicate responsibly online. This includes the principle that sensitive personal information should not be disclosed online.

See also:

Save any emails or text messages, so you have evidence and can report the cyber bully – but don't reply!


Removal of content

A new complaints process has been set up under the Act, so you can easily and quickly ask for the removal of harmful and illegal content posted by others.

If this process is followed, then online hosts are no longer legally responsible for the content that someone else has posted on their site (otherwise they may also be criminally liable).

Internet service providers or social media companies such as Facebook and Google could be asked by a New Zealand complaints agency to remove a harmful communication. The agency has not yet been set up to deal with complaints but should be established by mid-2017.

See the Ministry of Justice website for more information about the Safe harbour(external link) complaints process.


Spam

The Unsolicited Electronic Messages Act(external link) protects you from spam. When businesses send you commercial electronic messages, they must:

  • have your consent (express or implied)
  • include accurate information about the sender and their contact details
  • allow you to unsubscribe.

The Act also restricts the use of address-harvesting software, so it isn’t used to create address lists for sending spam.

Unless you consent either expressly or this is implied, businesses are not allowed to send you electronic commercial messages. You can expressly consent in person, by phone or by ticking a box on a website or on paper.

Implied consent is when it is clear that there is a reasonable expectation that messages will be sent. For example, you gave a business your email address when you purchased products or services in the general expectation that there will be follow-up communication.

But just because you are on an existing address list and have not ‘unsubscribed’, this does not mean that consent can be implied. The business should still check this with you directly.

Passing on email addresses, without your permission, to another organisation or business may also breach the Privacy Act. In particular, the Act’s principle three is about the collection of personal information from individuals. It requires a business to tell individuals the purpose for collecting the information, and who’s intended to receive the information, among other things.

Visit the Privacy Commissioner’s Privacy principles(external link) page to find out more.

Complain directly to the other party or online host

First you may complain directly to the other party (bully) or to the online host and ask to have the offending material removed.

See the Ministry of Justice flowchart on What to do if you are being cyber bullied(external link).

Read Resolve a problem to find out more.

Report a scam

Report scams to Netsafe.org.nz(external link) or 0508 638 723. They will direct you to the organisation best able to investigate or advise you on various types of scams, frauds and spam messages. This information may be used to compile data and publish scam alerts based on the most commonly reported scams.


Next steps

If you are unable to resolve your issue directly, our Resolve It tool has information to help you take the next steps. These may include going to the Disputes Tribunal or District Court.

Resolve it: Spam and cyber bullying


Need more help?

Contact us for more guidance.

Common situations

Cyberbullying by text

Janet is at a local high school. Her friend starts texting a false rumour to all their friends that Janet has been cheating on her boyfriend with another boy in the school. Janet is distraught when she finds out. If her friend refuses to stop, she can contact her friend’s mobile phone company to complain about the material and ask to them to block the texts.

Online cyberbullying

Two teenage boys decide to set up a website and invite people to post embarrassing photos of their friends as a prank. The website goes viral and lots of victims are unhappy when they find out their personal photos have been published without their knowledge. They can contact the website host and ask them to remove the photos.

Spam

Francis gets a lot of spam emails advertising products and specials from a big chain store based in New Zealand. He clicks the unsubscribe button but a week later he is still getting their emails. He makes a complaint to the Department of Internal Affairs to investigate and take enforcement action.