SMS for Politics: Does the Craig Kelly SMS violate spam laws?

SMS for Politics: Does the Craig Kelly SMS violate spam laws?

SMS for politics is a popular choice among politicians since it lets them reach their supporters quickly and directly. You may have already received political SMS from a party that you support before, but you wouldn’t be alone if you also got them from other parties too.

At the time of this article, the United Australia Party (UAP) is being criticised for sending unsolicited text messages, dubbed the “Craig Kelly SMS”, to voters in the lead up to election day. Authorised by Mr. Craig Kelly MP, these messages looked like this:

If you’ve never opted-in to receive any promotional materials from political parties, then you might wonder if these text messages comply with the law, and since this message was unsolicited, then you might also ask if it’s considered spam.

Unfortunately, the answer is: no . But why is that?

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) Anti-spam Act

To better understand why these messages are not considered spam, we first have to understand some of the regulations from the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) Anti-spam Act.

ACMA states that:

If you plan to send marketing messages or emails, you must first have permission from the person who will receive them.

However, there are certain types of organisations that are exempt from these regulations:

  • Government bodies
  • Registered political parties
  • Registered charities
  • Educational institutions (For current and former students)

If an organisation falls into one of these categories, then any commercial electronic messages it sends are exempt from the Act’s consent and unsubscribe conditions if, and only if, the messages relate to goods or services supplied by the organisation that authorised the message.

However, such messages must still comply with the Identify Condition of the Act where you must accurately identify your name or business name and include correct contact details for you or your business.

The United Australia Party (UAP) SMS

So in this case, did the UAP actually violate the ACMA Anti-spam act? The answer is no.

Since the UAP falls under the exempt organisation of “Registered political parties”, they are legally allowed to contact you.

In response to the United Australia Party text messaging campaign, ACMA said in a statement to the public:

The Australian Communications and Media Authority is aware of current text messages sent and authorised by Mr Craig Kelly MP and the United Australia Party. Messages like these from registered political parties do not have to comply with the Spam Act 2003. Any complaints relating to these specific texts should be directed to the authoriser.

Back in 2016, we also wrote about the Australian Labor Party (ALP) Medicare SMS campaign where we discussed the problems of that specific political campaign. In that situation, the text message did in fact violate the ACMA Anti-spam and an investigation was initiated by the Australian Federal Police. Some organisations may be exempt from the Consent condition of the Spam Act 2003, but it’s important to still comply with other mandatory conditions.

How do politicians get your mobile number?

Some companies use online platforms to build contact lists. These platforms generate random number combinations and verify whether these are active mobile numbers. Some systems can send SMS campaigns, and if they don’t, the sender can upload the verified contacts to a separate SMS platform to do so.

Other ways your number could have been provided is via third parties (have you read those subscription T&Cs?) or electoral roll data. A political party may have collected your number through one of these methods, but they have more leeway under the Spam Act.

As a professional business SMS provider, our goal has always been to improve the reputation of text message as a legitimate and useful business channel. We strongly believe that SMS should be used as a professional communication channel to build relationships with your prospects and customers.