ACMA hits Optus with $110,000 fine for Spam Act breach

Telco fined for failing to adhere to Australian Spam Act legislation relating to mobile messaging

Optus has been slapped with a $110,000 fine for breaching the Spam Act

Optus has been slapped with a $110,000 fine for breaching the Spam Act

Optus has paid the second highest penalty to date for alleged breaches of Australia’s spam legislation.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has issued the telco with two infringement notices worth $110,000 for allegedly sending unsolicited electronic messages without accurate sender identification. This contravenes the Spam Act 2003.

The ACMA found Optus sent 20,000 commercial electronic messages promoting the OptusZoo entertainment service to its customers’ mobile phones with the sender identification ‘966’ – which is potentially the numerical representation of the word ‘zoo’.

In a statement, ACMA chairman, Chris Chapman, said Optus incorrectly assumed recipients of the messages would make the connection between ‘966’ and ‘zoo’.

“However, this was not considered sufficient identification, as ‘966’ could be used to represent any number of permutations on a telephone keypad. Ensuring spam compliance procedures are understood by all staff is imperative for all businesses if they want to avoid the risk of costly fines,” Chapman said. According to the ACMA, it failed to resolve the matter during discussions.

“Undertakings can provide an excellent opportunity for businesses to demonstrate their commitment to compliance. However, as in this example, ACMA will use its stronger enforcement powers where the undertakings offered are not considered an adequate response to the compliance issues raised,” Chapman said.

Optus has paid the infringement notices and in a prepared statement said it would ensure accurate sender information is included in all future commercial electronic messages.

“Optus takes its obligations under the Spam Act seriously and takes care to ensure that all marketing and advertising campaigns are carried out in accordance with the Spam Act and other marketing related legislation,” the spokesperson said. “Optus has conducted a thorough review of its marketing training and approval processes to ensure that improved processes are in place to prevent reoccurrence. We fully co-operated with ACMA during the investigation and we apologise to any customers affected.”

The Australian Spam Act 2003 regulates unsolicited commercial electronic messages such as emails, SMS messages, MMS messages and instant messaging.

The Act dictates commercial electronic messages must include three key features: It must be sent with the recipient’s consent; contain clear and accurate information about the person or organisation sending the message; and provide a functional ‘unsubscribe’ facility to allow recipients to opt out of future messages.

According to the ACMA, at the time the penalty provisions of the Act were introduced (2004) Australia was 10th in the ranking of spam-relaying countries. By the end of 2007, Australia had fallen to 35th.

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