Generally direct marketing (such as telemarketing and advertising via email, SMS or post) is covered by the Privacy Act. This means that when organisations want to direct market their customers they have to comply with the National Privacy Principles or 'NPPs'.
There are a few other requirements for organisations when they direct market. To find out more see our NPP Guidelines.
How do I stop telemarketers calling me?
If you do not wish to receive phone calls from telemarketers, you can put yourself on the Government's Do Not Call Register.
Telemarketers must not make calls to numbers listed on the register, unless you are an existing customer. However, some organisations operating in the public interest, such as charities, are exempt from this and therefore may still be able to make calls to numbers listed on the Do Not Call Register.
See our Do Not Call Register page for how to register, and other information. Please note that the Australian Communications and Media Authority operates this register, not the Office of the Privacy Commissioner.
Can I ask a business to stop sending me junk mail?
Yes, although it depends upon the business, and how the business collected your personal information.
If a business is covered by the Privacy Act it will usually be required to stop sending you junk mail if you ask. However, if the business originally collected your information solely for direct marketing purposes it is not required to stop marketing you.
If it is a small business, they are normally not covered by the Privacy Act and do not have an obligation to stop. However, some small businesses have voluntarily opted to be covered by the Act and they would need to stop sending you unsolicited mail if you ask it to. Further information on the 'Opt-in' register is available at www.privacy.gov.au/business/small/opting.
How do I stop spam?
You have a few options when it comes to dealing with spam. Whatever you do, don't reply to spam - this can make the situation worse. Some spammers go to a lot of trouble to try to make a spam email look like it is from a legitimate source - if in any doubt, delete it!
If you know the business sending the message and just want to ask it to stop, it is usually best to contact it first.
You may be able to complain about the spam email you receive. See Who can I complain to about receiving spam? (below).
You may also want to consider installing a spam filter on your computer.
Remember, many spam messages can invite a reply just to test whether your email address is 'live'. If you respond to the message, this could mean more spam being sent to you. If you're not sure whether a message is spam from an illegitimate source, the best thing to do is delete the message.
Who can I complain to about receiving spam?
Spam email is mostly regulated by the Spam Act, which is administered by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). If you are having a problem with a spammer and you think they might be based in Australia, it's possible that they are breaching the Spam Act. Information about how to make a spam complaint can be found at www.spam.acma.gov.au. This site also has useful information on the Spam Act, spam reduction, and internet security tips.
Generally, you should complain to ACMA regarding spam email however, the Privacy Commissioner may decide to handle your complaint if:
- the business breached the Privacy Act by using your personal information unlawfully to send you a message
- ACMA was not able to resolve the complaint to your satisfaction under the Spam Act.
Other places to go
- See our Frequently Asked Question on 'junk' mail.
- Got a question on spam? Chances are someone's asked it before. See our Frequently Asked Questions on spam.
- Private Sector Information Sheet 26: Interaction between the Privacy Act and the Spam Act.
- If you think an agency or organisation has misused your personal information, you can make a complaint. To find out more, see Complaints.