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New Zealand has quite specific rules on email marketing, detailing what emails your business can and cannot send to its customers. It is illegal to send spam in New Zealand, and you must ensure that your business does not send such communications to your customer base. Usually, this involves gaining your customers’ consent to send them emails of a commercial nature. However, you may need to send transactional emails to your customers, such as those linked to a purchase. Do you need customer consent to send these kinds of emails? This article will answer that question and provide some background around transactional emails and customer consent.

What Are Transactional Emails?

Transactional emails are electronic messages you send to your customers following up on a transaction that they have made through your website, such as email receipts. Customers will receive them after they complete a transaction with your business. These kinds of emails will only contain specific, relevant information to your customer, and you would only send this email to one person. Transactional emails may include:

  • order confirmations;
  • order status updates;
  • notifications of a problem with a customer’s order;
  • order abandonment notifications;
  • shipping updates; or
  • account updates.

You can use special software to automatically send these emails to your customers when they complete a purchase online with your business.

For example, say that a customer buys a t-shirt from your online clothing store. You will send them an email receipt confirming that order and subsequent emails notifying them when you have shipped their t-shirt. These would all be transactional emails.

Are Transactional Emails Spam?

Spam, known legally as ‘unsolicited commercial electronic messages’, is illegal in New Zealand. Commercial electronic messages are messages sent to an electronic address that:

  • market or promote goods, services, land, an interest in land or a business or investment opportunity;
  • provide a person with the opportunity to gain an unfair financial advantage; or
  • include a link to a message or page doing either of these two things.

For example, email newsletters or sale notifications would qualify as commercial electronic messages.

When you do not have customer consent to send commercial electronic messages of this nature, these messages are unsolicited. These messages then classify as spam. If you send spam to your customers, you could be heavily fined. 

However, your business can still send legitimate electronic messages to your customers. This includes most transactional emails, as long as they facilitate, complete or confirm a commercial transaction that the receiving customer has previously agreed to enter into with you.

This also applies to messages: 

  • responding to a request for a quote or estimate;
  • providing warranty information, product recall information, or safety/security information about purchased goods or services;
  • containing factual information about a subscription, membership, loan, or other similar ongoing relationship;
  • providing information directly related to employment or an employment benefit plan the recipient is involved in; or
  • delivering goods or services, such as product updates or upgrades, relating to a specific transaction.

Transactional Emails and Customer Consent

There are three kinds of customer consent in relation to sending emails. These are set out below.

Express Consent

A customer has explicitly agreed to receive this kind of email communication.

Inferred Consent

You have enough of an established prior relationship to infer consent.

Deemed Consent

An email address is published publicly, without a ‘do not email’ request, and your message would be relevant to their interests.

Transactional emails, in most cases, do not qualify as commercial electronic messages, so you do not need to establish consent when you send them. They just need to be linked to a specific transaction that the recipient has already agreed to. 

Transactional Emails vs Email Marketing

You may wish to send emails to your customers for marketing purposes. If so, you need to include three key elements so that they do not qualify as unsolicited commercial electronic messages or spam. These are:

If your transactional email contains a link back to your business’ webpage, it would classify as a commercial electronic message. You also cannot send a customer marketing emails if you have already sent them transactional emails. A single purchase with you does not establish a customer’s consent for marketing emails in the future.

If you want to legally send your customers marketing emails once they provide you with an email address for a transaction, have an opt-in or opt-out button for such communications when confirming the transaction. If they choose to opt-in, then you have their express consent to send them future marketing emails.

Key Takeaways

Transactional emails related to a specific transaction a customer has already agreed to do not qualify as spam in New Zealand. Therefore, you do not need customer consent to send them these emails. However, these emails do not establish consent for future marketing emails, as you need something else to establish express consent, like an opt-in option. If you would like more information or help with your transactional emails, contact LegalVision’s regulatory and compliance lawyers on 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are transactional emails?

Transactional emails are emails that relate to a customer’s previous transaction with your business. These kinds of emails include order and purchase confirmation or shipping updates.

What is customer consent?

Customer consent, in relation to emails, refers to whether they have consented to receive certain kinds of emails from you. If you want to send commercial or marketing emails to your customers, you need customer consent.

What is spam?

In legal terms, spam is also known as ‘unsolicited commercial electronic messages’. These are commercial messages that your customers have not asked to receive, and are illegal.

Do I need consent to send transactional emails?

Because transactional emails do not qualify as commercial electronic messages, then you do not need to establish customer consent to send them. However, if they contain a hyperlink back to your website selling your goods, then they may become commercial messages.

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