Australian Sportsbook Sportsbet Hit With $3M Fine Over Spam

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Some companies still don’t get it. There’s a reason why governments have stepped in and placed legal bans on spam – consumers don’t want to be bombarded with unsolicited messages. Most would assume that a giant company like Flutter Entertainment would know not to violate the law, but not in this case. Its Australian sports betting arm, Sportsbet, has been slapped with a massive fine for continually spamming consumers in the country.

Sportsbet Facing Huge Penalty

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has fined Sportsbet AU$2.5 million ($1.8 million), the largest penalty ever imposed in Australia for spam offenses. The agency’s investigation revealed that the operator sent over 150,000 marketing messages to consumers between January 2020 to March 2021. This included emails and marketing messages to more than 37,000 people who tried to unsubscribe and more than 3,000 marketing texts without an unsubscribe function.

ACMA stated that the messages provided incentives for consumers to place wagers and alerted them about upcoming races.

Sportsbet’s failures in this matter had the real potential to contribute to financial and emotional harm to these people and their families.”

Nerida O’Loughlin, ACMA Chair

Nerida O’Loughlin, ACMA Chair, stated that she received complaints from individuals claiming they were suffering from gambling-related issues and were trying to resolve them by opting out of Sportsbet promotions.

She said that the ACMA was notified of the messages and contacted Sportsbet “several times” during the investigation. However, the company did not take appropriate action.

Sportsbet to Reimburse Customers

The regulator accepted a Sportsbet three-year court-enforceable undertaking. This will see Sportsbet refund customers who have lost money due to enticing bet offers received through the spam campaigns.

Sportsbet must also appoint an impartial arbiter to oversee the compensation program and an independent consultant who will review the company’s policies, procedures, training and systems, and make recommendations based on the audit.

Stricter anti-spam measures could be coming to Australia. John Stanton, Communications Alliance CEO, stated that scam texts make up around 20% of all network-based fraud activity. A legislative initiative has begun to introduce new tools that will assist service providers in fighting spam attacks against Australian consumers.

The new legislation would be added to the C661: Reducing Scam Calls Code (registered in 2020 by ACMA) that requires telcos in Australia to detect, trace and block spam calls.

These rules do not apply only to calls that originate on a telco network but to all calls that transit the network.

The code requires carriers to identify the characteristics of scam calls and share that information with regulators and telcos. They also need to block numbers used for frauds, including from overseas, and to take steps to prevent number spoofing.

The ACMA and the Australian Parliament are both in favor of the new restrictions.

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