What is the 2003 SPAM Act and did MSY just spam me?

spam inbox

Sometimes I get annoyed that people don’t hire professionals like me. After all, half the premise of the Good/Bad Marketing blog is to review good and bad marketing campaigns and practices. It is only when consumers are unethically or illegally marketed to that I get upset. On a few occasions, I have even phoned up a local Australian businesses who aggressively sent me SPAM I did not subscribe to, spoken to the manager, and pointed out that their marketing campaign demonstrates either ignorance of or disregard for the SPAM act. I don’t know which is worse. “Considering your demonstrated incompetence or disregard for the law, even if I liked your product, why would you expect me to buy from you?” Yeah, I’m that guy.

The latest example to land in my inbox is from nation-wide company MSY Technology, a budget IT retailer notorious for their cutthroat pricing, and refusal to offer any customer service or post-sale service beyond what consumer law mandates. They’re great for buying a product if you know exactly what you want and want top pay bottom dollar, but that’s it. Thanks to their pricing and popularity, they’ve been driving other brick-and-mortar IT retailers out of the Australian market for over 20 years, but now that Amazon has entered the Australian market, I’m sure they’re terrified.

Now in this case MSY didn’t buy my email from a broker, I created a customer account in 2015 during a brief visit back home to Australia, and I’m always careful to unsubscribe from all SPAM lists. 4 years later I received a SPAM email. I immediately clicked unsubscribe, but that’s where it got interesting.


Firstly, this is the first time I have seen an email preferences page that allows someone to pause emails for a period, or manually limit emails to, say, 3 emails per month. Also, why would they have a “My preferred channel” option which only has one option: email. They clearly didn’t intend on anyone seeing this. But then there’s this:

Annotation 2019-09-22 224527

Firstly, showing your segments to customers is like having your unmentionables on display. I’ve never seen this before either, and yes, they should be embarrassed.
But look closer at the segment labelled “Everyone(Include UNSUBSCRIBED) USE with Caution”. This is the smoking gun! Not only were they keeping unsubscribed users’ details not illegal in itself if you’re sending non-marketing emails, like advising new T&C, but this was an email announcing their big sale. They knew they were sending promotional SPAM to unsubscribed users.

What will the Australian Communications Media Authority (ACMA) do about it if a complaint is lodged? According to their published enforcement actions, in 2018 they issued 4 formal warnings and one fine. They only go after the big offenders, after all. The offense isn’t sufficiently noteworthy to garner media attention or go viral and result in customer backlash, but who knows, stranger things have happened.


David Frank is a marketer based out of Seattle, USA. Originally from Perth, Western Australia, he moved abroad in 2012, has lived in Japan, Vietnam, and the UK as well. His other bug-bears are signs in front of businesses that say “grand opening” for over 6 months, “everything always 20% off”, and anything written in Comic Sans font. The center of that venn diagram would be his worst nightmare.

What do you think?

Written by David Frank

David Frank is a Seattle-based marketer, writer (co-founder of Good/Bad Marketing) and public speaker. Originally from Perth, Western Australia, he has also lived in the UK, Japan and Vietnam. He has a Master of Science in Marketing degree from Edinburgh Napier University, Scotland.

He tours talks on marketing for the general public. His current talks are:
- Dangerous Products: The History and Present of Products NOT Safe to Consume
- Sensory Marketing and the Subtle Science of Packaging
- Sex, Love & Marketing: How To Market Yourself On Online Dating Sites​
- How to Market Tobacco (Despite Those Pesky Advertising Bans)
Learn more at http://www.thedavidfrank.com/talks.html

In his spare time, David is an avid gardener. https://instagram.com/seattlefoodgardener

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