Australia’s 2nd largest operator, Singtel Optus, has had to pay an AUD504,000 fine after an ACMA (Australian Communications and Media Authority) investigation discovered significant breaches of anti-spamming laws.

The ACMA investigation found that between 1 June and 4 December 2018, Optus sent SMS and email marketing messages to consumers after they had unsubscribed. Optus also sent commercial emails (billing notices) that did not include an ‘unsubscribe’ facility.

ACMA Chair Nerida O’Loughlin said large e-marketers need to respect consumer choices when they unsubscribe. “This is the second largest infringement notice that’s ever been paid to the ACMA, and the largest paid for spamming,” she said. “It 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’s something we’re actively cracking down on.”

This is not an isolated case, with two other infringements in the last 3 months adding another AUD250,000 in fines.

The regulator accepted a court-enforceable effort from Optus to help ensure future compliance with Australia’s ‘Anti-spam Act’, with the operator committing to appoint an independent consultant to review its systems, policies and procedures, and to report all instances of identified non-compliance to the ACMA.

O’Loughlin commented: “The undertaking should significantly reduce the risk of ongoing non-compliance. However, the ACMA will be actively monitoring Optus’s compliance with its commitments and [if it continues to be non-compliant] will consider court action.” This could attract further penalties of up to AUD2.1 million per day.

The ACMA is clearly holding Optus up as the poster boy for the consequences of non-compliance, with the case a clear indication that compliance is required to avoid damaging consumer experience and privacy, significant fines and corporate embarrassment.

Every marketing automation tool – whether free or paid-for – allows users to align their marketing communications and campaigns against target individuals held within the database. They also allow the user to test the campaign for compliance with internal frameworks for layout, tone of voice and content, and they automate the inclusion of ‘unsubscribe’ links and bounce dynamics due to target audience company policies – ensuring that you meet regulations and the wishes of your target market not to send them marketing materials.

None of this is rocket science. From no cost to a few thousand dollars per year, you can utilise a marketing automation tool that ensures you maintain an optimum customer experience and external compliance, but also one that negates the possibility of receiving a fine equivalent to over 10 times the cost of the software later down the line. However, where service providers might get tripped up is by not ensuring that other communications are compliant – such as bills and communications related to the commercial relationship with customers.

On this point, Gráinne Magfhloinn, SVP Business Development & Marketing at Soft-ex, a specialist in B2B & B2C billing communications and analytics argues that this don’t have to be the case. She says that if CSPs make their billing communications more relevant, personalised and easy to understand, they won’t be viewed as spam.  “The digital bill has become a very powerful communications tool, but as with all other forms of customer communication, it must be relevant and it must be compliant,” she notes. “Done well it can also help build a more trusting relationship, aids in customer retention and ultimately can become a proactive revenue tool.”

Which only goes to underline why having tools that enable service providers to engage customers rather than frustrate them, and which ensure that all communications are compliant with relevant legislation, are critical to building a better customer and commercial experience.

Posted by Kevin Bailey

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