Advertising materials

How does the law identify advertising material?

Section 144A of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (POEO Act) defines advertising material as any paper product (including a leaflet, brochure or magazine), or other material thing, that contains advertising or promotional matter.

This includes:

  • leaflets from a real estate agent
  • newsletters containing advertising about retail, sporting, school, community or political organisations or activities
  • refrigerator magnets advertising the services of a trades person
  • packets containing a free sample of a product, e.g. detergent.

The laws do not apply to:

  • parking fines left under a car windscreen wiper
  • newspapers (and inserts)
  • information about the Roads and Maritime Services mobility parking scheme that is left on a vehicle
  • anything that is of such a size, shape or volume that it is not possible or appropriate for it to be deposited in a letterbox, newspaper receptacle or under a door
  • anything deposited by or with the consent of the custodian of a place.

Where are people allowed to put advertising material?

Advertising material can only be deposited in three ways – directly into people's letterboxes, into newspaper receptacles or under doors to premises.

People cannot place advertising material under a vehicle's windscreen wipers (or wedged into a car door), on top of property gates or fences, in a public place, in open private places and in other inappropriate areas where it has the potential to become litter. The main exception to these restrictions is where the owner of the land or vehicle has given their express consent for the advertising material to be left.

If material is too big, where should the deliverer put it?

If bulky advertising material is too big to go into the letterbox, newspaper receptacle or under a door, it should be put in a sensible place, e.g. where indicated by the householder, or in such a way that it won't become litter if the wind blows. (Note: the laws about littering and distribution of advertising do not regulate how advertising material is deposited within buildings.)

What if the letter box is full?

If the letterbox is full, advertising materials may be placed under doors or in a newspaper receptacle.

What if people have a ‘No junk mail’ (or similar) sign on their letterbox?

Putting mail into these letterboxes is not against the law but it is against the distribution industry's Code of Practice. Distributors should respect people's wishes not to receive this material. For more information about the Code of Practice, see the Distribution Standards Board website or call the freecall hotline on 1800 676 136 .

Who can be prosecuted?

People could be prosecuted or fined if they unlawfully deliver advertising material. They could also be prosecuted or fined if they ask someone to unlawfully deliver advertising material. Employers can be held responsible for the actions of their employees.

What are the penalties for breaking the law?

‘On-the-spot’ fines

Depositing advertising material in a public place, open private place (i.e. private land outside a building) or on a vehicle


$200 (individuals)
$400 (corporations)

Causing or asking a person to deposit advertising material in a way that breaks the law

$200 (individuals)
$400 (corporations)

Matters taken to court

Depositing advertising material in a public place, open private place (i.e. private land outside a building) or on a vehicle

Maximum penalties

$550 (individuals)
$550 (corporations)

Causing or asking a person to deposit advertising material in a way that breaks the law

$770 (individuals)
$3300 (corporations)

What are some examples of unlawful delivery of advertising material?

Examples include:

  • Leaving a number of price lists for a take-away restaurant on top of the letterboxes outside a group of flats. (However no offence is committed if the price lists are placed inside each letterbox.)
  • Placing promotional material on top of a boundary wall or fence to residential premises.
  • Placing advertising material under the windscreens of vehicles parked in a parking station or in a private driveway (or wedging brochures in the door of a vehicle).
  • Leaving a pile of unsecured brochures on the access footpath to a number of town houses.

What about handing out advertising material?

If the person handing out the material drops it, they can be fined for littering. Handing out material is generally not against the law but sometimes permission will need to be obtained from the owner of the place where the material is being handed out. If a passerby accepts the material and then drops it, that person can be fined for littering.

What if someone leaves a pile of free post cards on tables in shopping centres?

Unless the person has the permission of the shopping centre owner, leaving the postcards on tables is an unlawful distribution of advertising material. The appropriate way to distribute the postcards is to hand them out to people wishing to take them, or distribute them into letterboxes, into newspaper receptacles, or under doors.

Who is responsible for enforcing the litter laws, receiving complaints and responding to enquiries?

In most cases local councils deal with litter laws, complaints and enquiries. Councils are authorised to take action but it is up to each council to decide how they will proceed. These actions could include advice, warnings, fines or a combination of these approaches. Councils may also choose to refer the matter to the industry body – the Distribution Standards Board.

The litter laws are supported by the industry's own Code of Practice with regard to correct delivery of advertising material. The Distribution Standards Board is willing to take action to ensure its members comply with litter laws.

Several government agencies also have powers to enforce the litter laws, including the EPA, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service and the NSW Police.

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