Direct marketing

Direct marketing is when an organisation uses or discloses your personal information to try to sell a product or service to you directly either by a phone call, or sending you advertising by email, text message or post, or targeting advertising to you in social media or on a web browser.

For example, an organisation may use or disclose your personal information to:

  • mail you a catalogue using your name and address
  • target online advertising to you using your personal information.

How your personal information can be collected for direct marketing

Generally, your personal information can be used for direct marketing if you gave your details directly to an organisation, and if it’s reasonable to expect the organisation to use your information. For example, if you gave your personal information to a store loyalty program and you receive an email from the store advertising a sale.

Your personal information can also be collected from other sources and used to send you direct marketing. For example, from:

  • a public record, such as a telephone directory
  • a membership list of a business, professional or trade organisation
  • an online, paper or phone survey or competition
  • an online account that shows your purchase history or browsing habits
  • a mail order or online purchase.

How to opt out of direct marketing

Any organisation that the Privacy Act 1988 covers must let you opt out of receiving direct marketing. The Privacy Act covers organisations with an annual turnover of more than $3 million, and some other organisations.

Common ways you can opt out of receiving direct marketing include:

  • clicking an ‘unsubscribe’ link in an email
  • replying to an email or text message with ‘unsubscribe’ or ‘STOP’
  • telling a telemarketer that you don’t want to receive their phone call and asking them to remove your phone number from their database
  • adding your phone number to the Do Not Call Register.

The Privacy Act does not apply to direct marketing covered by the Do Not Call Register Act 2006 or the Spam Act 2003 (Spam Act).

For more information on how an organisation can use your personal information to market to you, see Direct Marketing


Spam is an unwanted commercial junk mail message, often sent out to many people at the same time by email or text message. Spam may advertise or offer you goods, services, land, or business and investment opportunities.

Don’t reply to spam

Many spam messages ask you to reply to see if your email address is active. If you respond, this could lead to more spam being sent to you. If you’re unsure about a message, the best thing to do is delete it.

How can I stop spam?

You should turn on the ‘junk’ or ‘spam’ preferences in your email account. You could also think about installing a spam filtering service with your internet connection. If you find spam email still reaches your main inbox, often you can tell your email provider that a particular message is spam.

What law applies to spam?

If you’re having a problem with a spammer based in Australia, it’s possible they’re breaking laws under the Spam Act, which the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) manages.

To make a complaint about spam, visit

The Privacy Act does not apply to direct marketing covered by the Spam Act (for more information see Direct Marketing).

Exceptions to the Spam Act

There are some junk mail messages that are exempt from the Spam Act, such as purely factual messages and messages from faxes, internet pop-ups or voice telemarketing.

Electronic messages are also allowed from:

  • government bodies
  • registered political parties
  • registered charities
  • educational institutions (sent to current and past students and their households).


To stop calls from a telemarketer, you can put your details on the Australian Government’s Do Not Call Register, which Australian Communications and Media Authority manages.

Telemarketers must not make calls to numbers listed on the register, unless you are an existing customer. However, some organisations are still allowed to make telemarketing calls. These include:

  • registered charities
  • market research organisations conducting research for non-commercial purposes
  • political parties
  • educational institutions.

If you receive a call that you believe is a scam involving financial products and services including cold calling, phone investment scams and illegal investment schemes, contact the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, which may investigate.