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SingTel's Optus cops fine for spam text messages

Michael Crawford and Chris Jenkins (MIS Australia) | Jan. 15, 2009
Optus has been hit with fines totalling AUD$110,000 (US$73,000) over spam messages sent to mobile phone customers

SYDNEY, 15 JANUARY 2009- SingTel's Australian telco Optus has been hit with fines totalling AUD$110,000 (US$73,000) over spam messages sent to mobile phone customers in what could be a sign of a broader crackdown on unsolicited messages.

The industry regulator, the Australian Communications and Media Authority, has announced it had issued two fines related to 20,000 SMS messages sent by Optus in Australia in December 2007. SingTel became the parent company of Optus in 2001.

It is understood the fines may be part of a move by the regulator to take a tougher line on spam messages. The messages sent by Optus failed to provide clear and accurate sender information, ACMA said. They were sent to Optus customers' mobile phones to promote the OptusZoo service, but information in the message only identified the sender as "966", which was intended to be interpreted as "ZOO".

ACMA chairman Chris Chapman said the number was not sufficient identification.

"966 could be used to represent any number of permutations on a telephone keypad," he said.

Negotiations between ACMA and Optus were unable to settle on an offer of an "enforceable undertaking" by Optus, and this led ACMA to issue the infringement notice, Mr Chapman said.

"Undertakings can provide an excellent opportunity for businesses to demonstrate their commitment to compliance," he said.

"However, as in this example, ACMA will use its stronger enforcement powers where the undertakings offered are not considered an adequate response to the compliance issues raised."

ACMA confirmed that Optus had paid the fines.

An Optus spokeswoman apologised to customers for the incident. "We take our obligations under the Spam Act seriously," she said, adding that steps had been taken to ensure the problem did not recur.

"We have conducted a thorough review of our marketing, training and approval processes."

ACMA said the Optus fines were the second highest penalty for breaches of the Spam Act since its inception in 2004.


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