Deceptive New Scientist Unsubscribe Link?

I’m a nerd, and I love most ‘sciencey’ things.

As such, some time ago I subscribed to receive regular email updates from New Scientist magazine. While their articles were always interesting, before long I found I just didn’t have enough time to read them, so I unsubscribed.

Or so I thought.

I continued to regularly receive their emails, to the point where I actually ended up setting up for their emails to be halted by my spam filters, where there are still regularly deposited.

Today I decided to let one of their emails through my filters, to try and unsubscribe again.

Here’s the section at the bottom of the email, purportedly allowing for the recipient to unsubscribe:

Note the ‘conspicuous’ unsubscribe link?

Well, yeah. No.

Here’s what happens when you try to click on it:

Notice that what at first appears to be a link, is not actually a link?

The Australian Spam Act 2003 states (paraphrased) that – a commercial electronic message that has an Australian link most not be sent unless there is presented in a ‘clear and conspicuous manner’ the ability for the recipient to unsubscribe from receiving similar messages in the future.

There is certainly an Australian link to the email. An Australian office address is referenced at the bottom of the email, and the email address ‘[email protected]’ is clearly an email address attached to an Australian domain name.

So we get down to the ‘clear and conspicuous manner’ wording.

The so-called ‘unsubscribe link’ is clearly dressed up to look like a link, but it is not a link.

Clicking on this ‘link’ would for most people, appear to be the most obvious avenue as to what you have to do to stop receiving their emails.

There is a provided email address for ‘queries’, but it’s not ‘clear and conspicuous’ that you should contact them in this way to unsubscribe, given the ‘unsubscribe’ link exists, directing you away from the email address.

If I sent an email to that address now, there is nothing to suggest that this is the right way to go about it. They might be able to help me, but then again, they might not.

But why go to the trouble of making a non-link for unsubscibing look like a link?

I believe they fail the ‘clear and conspicuous’ test.

Hands down.

** UPDATE: 15/08/2013 19:35 ==========

New Scientist’s Twitter account has apologised, and promised to look into the matter. I shall keep things updated.