Spam Email – 5 Legal Tips from Rouse

Spam email, we have all received it. Usually spam is the term used for unsolicited electronic messages, but can also be used to refer to uninvited telemarketing calls.

E-mail marketing has become a key tool for some businesses to reach out to prospective customers, but how can it be done without breaking the law, and without upsetting the recipient?

We interviewed a media and digital law expert Chad Dowle, who is the Head of Global Media, Advertising and Digital practice at international IP law firm Rouse.

Here are his five tips for compliant direct marketing:

Tip #1: Get consent

Just because you have a customer’s contact details does not mean that you can send them marketing comms. In a simple commercial transaction, a customer’s personal information will usually be provided on the assumption is will be used only for that transaction.

In Hong Kong, a consumer must provide “informed” consent to receiving marketing materials, either directly, or via a third party. Often referred to as an “Opt-in”, you must inform the customer that their information will be used for marketing, and they must knowingly agree. If you do not have that consent, don’t send the message.

Tip #2: Give an opt-out

Marketing communications should always provide a straightforward way for the recipient to choose not to receive future materials. Often known as an “Opt-out”, the most common way of doing this is an “Unsubscribe” button on the email. This is an effective method, but the button must work, and the decision to unsubscribe should be respected by the sender, and the recipient removed from contact lists.

In Hong Kong, the unsubscribe must be actioned within 10 days.

Tip #3: Identify yourself

Marketing communications must contain information to identify the sender; business name, location, contact details. This should be in Chinese and English. If communication is by phone or fax, the telephone number must not be withheld.

If someone receiving your communication cannot easily tell who it is from and how to contact you, the message will need some work.

Tip #4: Do not ignore your audience

If someone contacts you asking about the information you hold about them, and what it is used for, the law requires that you provide that information.

In the long run, it will be simpler to respond to the individual than to have to deal with a complaint made to the Privacy Commissioner or the Communications Authority.

Tip #5: Don’t be misleading

It sounds obvious, but all marketing communications should be truthful and not misleading. The general position under the law is long established, but there are also specific rules about sending electronic messages with misleading subject lines.

Don’t highlight something in the subject, and then effectively take it away in the body of the email. There is nothing wrong with an attention-grabbing subject, but it must be accurate and true.


If you have more questions about spam email, please contact Chad or visit Rouse’s website.



Spam email infographics - 5 Legal Tips from Rouse


About the author

Chad Dowle is a Principal and Head of Global Media, Advertising and Digital practice based in Rouse’s Hong Kong office. Chad is a specialist in media and digital law with expertise in supporting clients to achieve their communication aims in emerging markets. 

Chad regularly advises clients on strict legal issues, including regulatory compliance, promotion registration, and terms and conditions. Chad also advises on more practical issues, including contest mechanic development, brand awareness on social media, and cultural sensitivity in advertising. 

Rouse is an international IP law firm with 13 offices across Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Rouse operates as an integrated network to provide the full range of intellectual property services to SMEs looking at integrating their IP strategy with their business strategy.