Latitude Finance Australia (Latitude) has paid a $1.55 million infringement notice to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) for over three million breaches of the Spam Act 2003.
An ACMA investigation found Latitude mischaracterised commercial emails and texts as ‘information only’ messages. These messages, sent to existing card holders, promoted Latitude products including credit cards—such as 28° Global, Go Mastercard, Gem Visa and CreditLine, mobile applications and reward programs.
Due to the mischaracterisation, Latitude sent over three million commercial emails and text messages without an unsubscribe function between June 2021 and March 2022. These messages also continued to be sent to customers who had already attempted to unsubscribe.
ACMA Chair Nerida O’Loughlin said companies must accurately characterise their messages and respect the choices made by their customers as to whether they want to receive them.
“Companies cannot promote their products and services to customers under the guise of simply providing them with factual information. Customers must be able to withdraw their consent and stop receiving commercial messages. That choice must be actioned within 5 days,” said Ms O’Loughlin.
“Latitude failed on both these counts. It also did not make changes to its practices even after we alerted it several times that it may have compliance problems.
“These rules have been in force since 2003, so there is simply no excuse for Latitude—or any other business— to not have compliant practices.”
In addition to the penalty paid, the ACMA has also accepted a comprehensive three-year court-enforceable undertaking from Latitude requiring it to appoint an independent consultant to review its compliance with spam rules, and to make improvements where needed. Latitude must also train its staff and report to the ACMA.
“We will be actively monitoring Latitude’s compliance and the commitments it has made to the ACMA.
“We know that Australians want companies to stop contacting them when they ask them to. That is why the ACMA is concentrating on businesses that don’t action these requests as a 2022–23 compliance priority."
Over the past 18 months, businesses have paid almost $5 million in penalties for breaching spam and telemarketing laws. The ACMA has also accepted 12 court-enforceable undertakings and given 5 formal warnings. Repeat corporate offenders can face court-imposed penalties of up to $1.11 million a day.
For information about how to reduce unwanted communications or to make a complaint visit the ACMA website.