Israeli Anti-SPAM Legislation Amended for the First Time

The first amendment to the Israeli anti-SPAM law (section 30A of the Communications Law (Telecom and Broadcasts), 5742-1982) extends the law's reach to cover donation requests and non-commercial marketing, but excludes political messages and election campaigns.

The amendment to the anti-SPAM law, enacted by the Knesset in early August, was recently published in the official Israeli gazette. The amendment redefines the term “advertisement” to include messages distributed to the public for the purpose of donations or non-commercial marketing.

The notion of “non commercial marketing” targets the distribution of ideas aimed at influencing a person's position or behavior, other than political messages or election campaigns. The term “donation” was defined only by way of elimination to exclude donations for election campaigns.

The Israeli anti-SPAM law proscribes the transmission of advertisements through fax, email, text messages (SMS) and robocalls, unless recipients have given their prior written consent (an opt-in approach). Prior to the recent legislative amendment, the term “advertisement” was defined as a commercially distributed message whose purpose is to encourage the purchase of goods or services, or otherwise encourage expending money. The term is now more expansively defined to include requests for donations and non-commercial messages. As time evolved after the enactment of the original anti-SPAM law, controversy developed regarding its application to non-profit organizations and case-law was split on this issue.

The most interesting amendment to the law lies in its new section 30A(b1) that spells out an exception to the fundamental opt-in rule. The section provides that non-profit advertisers desiring to send emails promoting donations or non-commercial messages may do so without the recipient's prior consent, but only as long as the recipient has not opted-out to such messages. This exception only applies to emails and not to any of the other means of transmission listed in the law, such as text messages (SMS).

The anti-SPAM law, as originally enacted, permitted the transmission of a one-time opt-in offer to businesses in order to seek their consent to receive commercial advertisements. Case law held that such a request must not in itself be an advertisement, but rather just an offer to receive ads in the future. The amended anti-SPAM law now permits transmitting such requests with regard to donations and non-commercial messages as well.

Until its recent amendment, the law required that each ad clearly bear the word “advertisement” in the title or body of the message (except for text messages). Under the amended law, an ad must bear the words “advertisement”, “donation request” or “non-commercial message”, whichever is relevant. Another change in the law addresses the possibility of unsubscribing from a robocall. An advertiser must now indicate the unsubscribe option at the beginning of a robocall, and must provide an unsubscribe option through the push of a phone button. {For the legislative amendment (in Hebrew), click here}