Singtel Optus pays AU$504k for breaching Australian spam laws

Singtel Optus, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Singapore telco Singtel, has paid a AU$504,000 infringement notice (approximately US$338,322) after an Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) investigation found significant breaches of spam laws. According to ACMA, this is the second largest infringement notice ever paid to the authority, and the largest paid for spamming.

In a statement to Marketing, Optus VP, regulatory and public affairs, Andrew Sheridan, said it acknowledges ACMA's action and apologises to customers who have received messages in error.

"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," he added.

An ACMA investigation found that between 1 June and 4 December 2018, Optus continued to send SMS and email marketing messages to consumers after they had unsubscribed. Optus was also found to have sent commercial emails in the form of billing notices that did not include an unsubscribe facility. According to the press statement, Optus has committed to appoint an independent consultant to review its systems, policies and procedures for compliance with spam rules. The Australian telco has also undertaken to report to the ACMA about all identified non-compliance for the term of the undertaking.

ACMA Chair Nerida O’Loughlin said large e-marketers need to listen to consumers and respect their choice when they unsubscribe. She added that the payment reflects the seriousness of breaches made by Optus and its "failure to honour" its customers' wishes to unsubscribe, in some cases on multiple occasions. "Australians find spam infuriating and as a regulator it is something we are actively cracking down on," she said.

O’Loughlin also added that the undertaking should "significantly reduce" the risk of ongoing non-compliance. However, ACMA will be actively monitoring Optus’ compliance with its commitments and will consider court action if they are not met, she said.

Over the last 18 months, ACMA said businesses have paid a total of AU$1,127,700 in infringement notices (approximately US$757,024) to the authority for breaking spam and telemarketing laws. Breaches of Australia’s spam rules can result in the ACMA seeking a civil penalty and/or injunction from the Federal Court, giving an infringement notice, accepting a court enforceable undertaking or issuing a formal warning. Repeat corporate offenders may face penalties of up to AU$2.1 million daily (approximately US$1,490,730).