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Uber pays $412,500 penalty for spam


Rideshare and food delivery company Uber Australia Pty Ltd has paid a $412,500 infringement notice for sending more than 2 million emails in breach of Australian spam laws.

An Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) investigation found Uber sent over 2 million marketing emails to customers without an unsubscribe facility. More than 500,000 of the messages were sent to customers who had previously unsubscribed.

The emails were sent on a single day in January 2023 as part of an advertising campaign for an alcohol home delivery service. The investigation found that the breaches occurred because Uber mischaracterised the emails as non-commercial.

ACMA Chair Nerida O’Loughlin said it was unacceptable that a company like Uber that conducts high volume marketing did not have robust systems in place to consistently and accurately categorise consumer messages.

“In this case, an avoidable error has led to more than 2 million messages being sent without a way for people to unsubscribe. This error was compounded by the fact that half a million of those messages were sent to people who had previously opted out.”

“Consumers are fed up with their wishes not being respected. People rightly expect to have choice over who contacts them for marketing purposes,” Ms O’Loughlin said. 

The Spam Act requires businesses to have consent before they can send direct electronic marketing messages to consumers. Businesses must also provide recipients with the option to unsubscribe within messages.

“We are actively monitoring Uber’s compliance and will not hesitate to take stronger action if it doesn’t comply in the future,” Ms O’Loughlin said.

“This is a warning to all businesses conducting e-marketing that they should be actively and regularly reviewing their marketing to ensure it is compliant.”

“We are particularly concerned about direct marketing that involves gambling, alcohol and ‘buy-now, pay-later' products and services that may lead to significant harm for people in vulnerable circumstances.”

This action follows recent enforcement taken against other companies that have breached the spam laws, including Ticketek, DoorDash and CommBank. Enforcement of the spam unsubscribe rules is one of the ACMA’s compliance priorities and over the last 18 months businesses have paid more than $11 million in spam and telemarketing breach penalties.

Consumers can make a complaint about spam here. For more information on how to reduce unwanted emails, texts, and phone calls, visit the ACMA website.

MR 30/2023

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