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Maintaining customer engagement is crucial for any business, especially if you are just starting out. If your customers think your business is trustworthy and genuine, you are more likely to have repeat customers buying your products or services. One way your business may decide to keep customers engaged is through email newsletters. However, you need to be careful with this marketing method so as not to cross the line of sending spam to your customers. The law provides a couple of requirements to distinguish legitimate commercial messages from spam. One of those requirements is having an unsubscribe button in your newsletter. 

Sending Email Newsletters to Your Customers

Email newsletters are a common marketing tactic for businesses, and they can be an effective way for you to inform customers about new developments in your business. The contents of a good email newsletter can vary, depending on the nature of your business. The key to a good newsletter is keeping it relevant for your particular customer base.

For example, your customers may value your family-run cafe because of its personalised and down-to-earth nature. An effective email newsletter would reflect that, providing news and updates relating to the personal aspects of your business. Alternatively, if your customers value your business for its wide range of high-quality products, your email newsletter would contain details of sales and new stock in store.

Email newsletters are usually legally classified as commercial electronic messages. These are messages sent through a telecommunications service, such as email or text, that:

  • market or promote goods, services, land, or investment opportunities;
  • enable a person to gain a dishonest financial advantage; or
  • provide a link or direct the recipients to content containing the previous two points.

Most promotional emails, such as your business’ email newsletter, will be appropriate and legal for you to send. However, this is only as long as they do not cross the line to become spam.

When Newsletters Become Spam

Sending spam (legally known as unsolicited electronic messages) is illegal. If you send a commercial electronic message to your customers without meeting the relevant legal requirements, you may encounter legal consequences.

If a customer thinks you have sent them spam, they can complain to the Department of Internal Affairs. For each unsolicited electronic message you send, you can be fined $200. These single fines can accumulate up to $500,000. It is illegal to use purchased email mailing lists or email address stripping software for sourcing your recipients.

Note that emails that are more administrative in nature are generally not considered unsolicited commercial electronic messages. These are usually related to an already existing relationship with a customer and are necessary for completing a transaction or agreement. For example, these can include messages:

  • responding to a request for a quote or estimate;
  • completing a previous transaction or agreement;
  • detailing warranties or security information for previously purchased goods;
  • providing factual details about already agreed subscription or membership services;
  • informing the recipient about an employment or benefit plan that they are already a part of; or
  • fulfilling delivery for an already purchased item.

What Legal Requirements Does My Newsletter Need to Meet?

To avoid classifying as spam, your promotional email newsletter needs to have:

  • an option to unsubscribe;
  • accurate information;
  • your business’ contact details; and
  • customer consent.

Without these requirements, your newsletter will constitute an unsolicited electronic message. Therefore, it will be illegal. Ensure you keep accurate records of who has:

  • consented to be sent your emails; and
  • unsubscribed.

Requirements for Your Unsubscribe Option

Every email newsletter you send needs to have an unsubscribe link in it. Otherwise known as an ‘unsubscribe facility’, this needs to go to a link that allows customers to opt-out of receiving your emails. Often, this is a button at the bottom of your newsletter.

An adequate unsubscribe link needs to:

  • be clear and conspicuous;
  • lead to a relatively simple unsubscribe process;
  • allow the recipient to respond to you using the same communication method as the initial message;
  • have no cost to use; and
  • be functional for at least 30 days after sending.

If a customer does decide to unsubscribe from your email newsletters, you must action this request within five working days.

Customer Consent

The other essential requirement for your email newsletters is customer consent. To establish consent for sending these emails, you need to prove that you have a legitimate relationship with the recipient. There are three kinds of consent possible for establishing this relationship:

  • express consent;
  • inferred consent; and
  • deemed consent.

For your email newsletters, you should make sure you have express consent. A good way to gain this is by providing an opt-in button when a customer completes a transaction with your business. 

Key Takeaways

Email newsletters can be a great marketing tool for your business, so long as they do not cross the line to become spam. This means that you need to:

  • have the customer’s consent to send them your newsletter;
  • ensure that the newsletter is accurate; and 
  • provide an unsubscribe link in each newsletter. 

If you would like more information or help with your business’ email newsletters, contact LegalVision’s regulatory and compliance lawyers on 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a commercial electronic message?

A commercial electronic message is a message you send through a telecommunications service (like email or text), that promotes taking part in some sort of commercial activity. These messages can range from promoting your products to more dishonest financial conduct.

What is spam?

Spam covers unsolicited electronic messages. These are commercial messages sent through something like email or text, that the recipient did not consent to receive. Spam is illegal in NZ.

When do I need an unsubscribe option?

If you send your customers email newsletters promoting a commercial activity (like advertising for a new sale), you need an unsubscribe link in these messages. 

Are my business’ email newsletters considered spam?

As long as you meet the law’s requirements around commercial electronic messages, then your email newsletters should not spam. This includes having an unsubscribe link in your email newsletters and having the consent of the person you are sending the newsletter to.

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