Optus pays second-largest ACMA fine of over $500,000 for spamming unsubscribed consumers with marketing messages

Optus – which just last week was named Australia’s ‘strongest’ brand – has paid a fine totalling more than $500,000 after an Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) investigation found the telco giant breached spam laws by sending unsubscribed consumers SMS and email marketing messages.

The $504,000 fine is the second largest ever paid to ACMA and the largest for spamming, and is in response to repeated breaches across a six month period in 2018. The biggest fine was issued to Telstra in 2014, a $510,000 charge for failing to connect new landline customers on time.

ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin said the breaches to spam laws were significant, and the fine acts as a reminder for large e-marketers to respect consumers’ choice to unsubscribe.

“This is the second largest infringement notice that has ever been paid to the ACMA, and the largest paid for spamming. It reflects the seriousness of breaches made by Optus and its failure to honour its customers’ wishes to unsubscribe, in some cases on multiple occasions,” O’Loughlin said.

“Australians find spam infuriating and as a regulator it is something we are actively cracking down on.”

Optus has provided an undertaking to the ACMA, which is court-enforceable, to help ensure its future compliance with spam legislation. The telecommunications company has promised to appoint an independent consultant to review its systems, policies and procedures to meet its legal obligations under the Spam Act.

O’Loughlin said ACMA will consider court action if Optus breaches its undertaking

“The undertaking should significantly reduce the risk of ongoing non-compliance, however the ACMA will be actively monitoring Optus’ compliance with its commitments,” O’Loughlin added.

“If they are not met, the ACMA will consider court action.”

The undertaking also involves Optus committing to report all instances of non-compliance to ACMA for the period the undertaking covers.

It’s a fall from grace for the telco company, which last week was named Brand Finance’s strongest local brand, with a brand strength index score of 86.3 out of 100.

Vice president of regulatory and public affairs, Andrew Sheridan, apologised to customers and said they received the SMS and email messages “in error”.

“We acknowledge the ACMA’s action and apologise to customers who received messages in error,” Sheridan told Mumbrella.

“We have committed to putting in place enhanced practices and systems to tighten the management of our marketing communications and will continue to work constructively with the ACMA on this matter.”

In the past 18 months, companies have paid more than $1.1m to ACMA for breaking spam and telemarketing laws. Such breaches can attract fines, injunctions from the Federal Court, infringement notices, undertakings, or formal warnings, while repeat offenders can face fines of up to $2.1m per day.

E-marketing, however, is not the regulator’s only focus. Earlier this month, ACMA flagged its concern that 80% of Australians are concerned about advertisers influencing the news.


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