Sportsbet Fined AU$2.5 Million For Sending Spam Messages

February 22, 2022
Clinton Jacob Machoka

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has fined Sportsbet AU$3.7m (US$2.66m)for sending over 150,000 unsolicited emails and text messages to its client, breaching Australia's spam rules in the process.

Between January 2020 and March 2021, around 37,000 customers received spam messages from Sportsbet. According to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), the ads informed individuals about upcoming horse races or provided gambling perks. Additionally, Sportsbet sent over 3,000 SMS messages to its users without an unsubscribe option.

Sportsbet was penalized AU$2.5 million (US$1.8 million) for violating spam regulations, the largest fine of its type to date. The remaining AU$1.2 million (US$862,500) is the total amount of refunds paid by the company to customers who made wagers after receiving these unwelcome messages.

Correcting its Failures

Nerida O'Loughlin, ACMA Chair, stated that they received complaints from customers suffering from gambling-related issues and tried to manage their addictions by unsubscribing from Sportsbet's promos. As per O'Loughlin, the corporation failed to take the appropriate measures.

The commission also instructed Sportsbet to designate a private adjudicator to monitor the compensation plan and an independent consultant to assess the company's methods, rules, training, and infrastructure and execute the audit's findings. Furthermore, Sportsbet halted all types of digital marketing for several months and has since improved its system to ensure that the problem does not reoccur.

Sportsbet acknowledged ACMA's findings in a statement, and the company apologized to customers who had been affected. The company blamed the transmission of the ads on "technical and systems failures that regrettably meant not all customer unsubscribe requests were actioned on time."

There's also an effort underway by the Communications Alliance to get public feedback on what it terms a "strengthened" draft Anti-Scam Industry Code that would focus on scam calls and text messages.

The telecom industry group proposed that the amended code include stronger tracing and reporting mechanisms and a new section dealing with detecting, tracking, and banning numbers linked to SMS frauds.

According to the Communications Alliance, the sector has already prevented more than 350 million scam calls from reaching Australians under the current regulation.

The draft code will be made public until March 11, 2022, at which point the Communications Alliance will integrate the response to create a final draft code and present it to the ACMA for review for certification.

Last year, the federal government said it would alter its telecommunications regulations to prevent fraudulent SMS messages. The amendments include altering the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act of 1979 (TIA Act) to allow telecoms to intercept and prevent harmful SMS texts.

There has been a solid push to outlaw all gambling advertisements in Australia. On Wednesday, Financial Counselling Australia and Suicide Prevention Australia issued a report on the matter. They suggested that advertising contributes significantly to gambling problems because people attempting to quit gambling find it challenging to avoid pro-gambling enticements.

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