Tuesday, October 8, 2013

GraysOnline fined record $165,000 for spam

Fined: GraysOnline.

Fined: GraysOnline.

The company behind the GraysOnline shopping websites has been slapped with a $165,000 fine by Australia's communications regulator after sending hundreds of thousands of emails that breached the Spam Act.

The fine is the largest ever handed out and the 26th the regulator has issued since the Spam Act was legislated almost 10 years ago on December 12, 2003.

An Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) investigation found Grays' decision to treat an email campaign introducing its GraysEscape website as not promotional was incorrect.

Sending porn through the work email system is not an automatic sacking offense.

GraysOnline sent unsolicited promotional emails without an opt-out facility. Photo: Louie Douvis

As a result of the decision, Grays sent messages without an opt-out facility and to some people who had previously withdrawn their consent to receiving marketing messages, the regulator said.

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Julia Cornwell McKean, manager of the ACMA's Unsolicited Communications and Compliance section, said GraysOnline sent the email without an "unsubscribe" link to 700,000 Australians.

Further, about 300,000 were sent to people who had previously withdrawn consent from receiving Grays emails, McKean said.

According to the ACMA, the Spam Act requires that all marketing emails are sent with the consent of the recipient, and include an option for recipients to opt-out of receiving further marketing messages.

"This case demonstrates the domino effect one wrong decision can have," said ACMA deputy chairman Richard Bean. "Businesses take a huge risk if they decide an email doesn't need to comply with the Spam Act.

"This conduct involved a conscious decision by an experienced e-marketer. The consequences of getting it wrong can be severe – from potential penalties such as this, to damaging your reputation."

In August, a West Australian businessman was fined $NZ95,000 ($83,300) by the New Zealand High Court for advertising his business seminars with spam emails.

New Zealand's Department of Internal Affairs received 53 complaints between April and September 2010 about spam messages sent by Wayne Mansfield.

Mansfield was advertising seminars on social media marketing, negotiating, "power selling" and "time shifting".

One of his emails was titled, aptly, "Someone is waiting for your call – don't be a Cold Calling Scaredy Cat".

In 2005, Mansfield was one of the first in Australia to face court action under the Spam Act.

At the time, ACMA alleged Mansfield and his company, Clarity1, which also uses the name Business Seminars, sent 56 million spam emails in the year after the Spam Act came into force. It accused him of being among the world's top 200 spammers.

In March, a similar incident occurred when Victorian ugg boot business Ausboots emailed its March newsletter to thousands of people who had not signed up to it.

At the time, the regulator could not confirm whether an investigation was underway but encouraged those who received the Ausboots newsletter unsolicited to report it.

In January 2012, Nokia was slugged with a $55,000 fine after spamming phone owners with tips about Nokia mobile phones. In 2011, Virgin Blue – now Virgin Australia – was also caught out and fined $110,000.

twitter This reporter is on Facebook: /bengrubb


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