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Action on spam and telemarketing Apr to Jun 2019

$46,200 infringement notice $46,200 infringement notice paid by Sumo Power Pty Ltd for making telemarketing calls to numbers on the Do Not Call Register

$12,600 infringement notice $12,600 infringement notice paid by Brand Link Media Pty Ltd for sending marketing emails without consent and without an unsubscribe facility. We also accepted court-enforceable undertakings

Formal warnings Formal warnings issued to two businesses

4 investigations 4 investigations were finalised and 3 were commenced

1,029 alerts to business   1,029 alerts to business about compliance

The ACMA enforces consumer safeguards for telemarketing and commercial electronic messages (spam). We provide the Do Not Call Register (DNCR), promote responsible industry practice and monitor compliance and enforcement.

Approach

Our activities depend on the risk of harm and impact on consumers. We:

  • provide compliance information to industry
  • contact businesses to warn them to rectify their compliance issues
  • investigate serious, ongoing and systemic non-compliance
  • take enforcement action where warranted

We rely on intelligence from a variety of sources, including complaints from members of the public, reports, industry feedback and information from international regulators. We also gather intelligence through ‘shadow-shopping’, where the ACMA acts as a consumer to check compliance with regulations.

We use intelligence to target particular industry sectors or issues that require priority attention. In 2018–19, our focus has been on solar telemarketing, financial services marketing and spam SMS. In 2019–20, our focus will be on solar telemarketing and lead generation (cold calling to get sales leads).

In total, businesses have paid $386,400 in infringement notices in the past 12 months under our ongoing campaign.

Additionally, the ACMA has also recently initiated proceedings in the Federal Court against two companies as part of its focus on solar telemarketing.

Combating scams

The ACMA is concerned about the social and economic impact of scams on Australians, particularly those in vulnerable circumstances. We are conducting a Scam Technology Project to explore practical technical solutions to address the proliferation of scam calls over Australian telecommunications networks.

The ACMA released its Terms of Reference on 13 March 2019, and a discussion paper, Combating scams on 29 March 2019.  

This work is ongoing, and we expect to be able to report on outcomes before the end of the year.

The ACMA issues scam alerts on a regular basis, generally through social media.

Enforcement

Enforcement action for breaches of unsolicited communications laws can include Federal Court-imposed civil penalties, ACMA-issued infringement notices, formal warnings and court-enforceable undertakings.

Enforcement outcomes in the quarter

Organisation Outcome Details

Sumo Power Pty Ltd

The business paid a $46,200 infringement notice for breaching section 11(1) of the Do Not Call Register Act 2006 (DNCR Act)

The investigation was commenced following consumer complaints.

The ACMA found that the business could not show consent to conduct telemarketing to numbers on the Do Not Call Register, including calls made by a third-party call centre.

Brand Link Media Pty Ltd

The business paid a $12,600 infringement notice and the ACMA accepted a court-enforceable undertaking for breaching section 16(1) of the Spam Act 2003 (Spam Act) 

The investigation was commenced following consumer complaints.

The ACMA found that the business had sent marketing emails without consent and without an unsubscribe facility.

Mill Estate Holdings Pty Ltd  The business was given a formal warning for breaching section 16(1) of the Spam Act

The investigation was commenced following consumer complaints.

The ACMA found that the business sent a limited number of marketing emails without consent and without an unsubscribe facility.

Utility Hub Pty Ltd  The business was given a formal warning for failing to comply with section 9(2)(b) of the Telemarketing Industry Standard  The investigation was commenced after a separate investigation identified potential non-compliance by this call centre.

The ACMA found that for a limited number of telemarketing calls, the business had not stated its name at the start of the call, in addition to the name of the business it was calling for, which is required under the Telemarketing Industry Standard.
 

Investigation

We investigate where our intelligence indicates there may be a risk of harm to the public through serious, systemic or ongoing compliance issues.

Four investigations were finalised in the quarter and three were commenced. Nine are ongoing. The average time to complete an investigation was four months.

Investigations finalised in the quarter

Investigations finalised in the quarter  

Investigation outcomes in the quarter

Organisation Outcome Details

Solar provider*

Breach of the DNCR Act

The ACMA found that the business made a limited number of telemarketing calls to numbers on the DNCR without consent

Online marketplace*

Breach of the Spam Act

The ACMA found that the business sent marketing SMS without consent

Mill Estate Holdings Pty Ltd

Breach of the Spam Act

The ACMA found that the business sent a limited number of marketing emails without consent and without an unsubscribe facility
Lonergan Research Pty Ltd Breach of the Telemarketing Industry Standard The ACMA found that research calls had been made outside permitted calling times, in breach of the Telemarketing Industry Standard

The business took immediate and comprehensive remediation steps before the ACMA investigation

*The ACMA does not generally publish the names of entities that have not breached or where enforcement actions have not been finalised or published yet. 

Compliance alerts

We contact businesses directly about issues raised in complaints from the public where there is information available to identify the responsible entity. Multiple complaints can lead to one compliance alert by the ACMA.

Compliance alerts

Complaints and other intelligence

Complaints from members of the public are a key source of intelligence.

Complaints and other intelligence

*Telemarketing complaints include complaints about the DNCR and Telemarketing and Fax Marketing Industry Standards.

This quarter, key complaint trends included:

  • 35 per cent of complaints about telemarketing did not contain enough information to identify the caller, including no information provided about the calling number
  • 23.7 per cent of telemarketing complaints and 15.2 per cent of spam complaints related to scams
  • solar, financial services and utilities (gas, water, electricity) continue to be the main areas of consumer concern, particularly about telemarketing

Aside from complaints, industry (including email platforms) and members of the public also provide informal intelligence about compliance about spam or telemarketing rules, or by reporting spam emails or SMS directly to the ACMA. This information helps us to identify emerging compliance issues and trends.

Making a complaint and other information

Government, industry and the public all have important roles to play in ensuring unsolicited communications don’t unduly affect the lives of Australians. The ACMA is responsible for the consumer safeguards in the:

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