Woolworths has been fined more than $1m for continuing to spam consumers after they asked to be removed from its mailing list.
The Australian supermarket giant was fined $1,003,800 by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) which claimed Woolworth had breached the Spam Act 2003 more than five million times.
The offending emails were sent between October 2018 and July 2019.
And despite being warned by ACMA that it faced “potential compliance issues”, Woolworths failed to act.
“The spam rules have been in place for 17 years and Woolworths is a large and sophisticated organisation,” said ACMA Chair Nerida O’Loughlin.
“The scale and prolonged nature of the non-compliance is inexcusable.”
Spam is defined as any form of unsolicited electronic commercial message and includes email, SMS and MMS.
Upon investigating the company, ACMA found Woolworths’ “systems, processes and practices were inadequate to comply with spam rules”.
“Australians have the right to unsubscribe from marketing emails that they do not want to receive,” O’Loughlin said.
“In this case, consumers claimed that they had tried to unsubscribe on multiple occasions or for highly personal reasons, but their requests were not actioned by Woolworths because of its systems, processes, and practice.”
Aside from the million-dollar fine, Woolworths has copped a comprehensive three-year court-enforceable undertaking, which ACMA said is “commensurate to the nature of the conduct, number of consumers impacted and the lack of early and effective action by Woolworths.”
Communications Minister Paul Fletcher, under whose portfolio ACMA sits, said the government is serious about fighting spam.
“If recipients consent to receiving sales and marketing information – no problem,” Fletcher said.
“But if there’s no consent – it’s illegal.
“Spam clogs the system, causes dissatisfaction and distrust amongst consumers and generally makes it harder for legitimate businesses to communicate effectively.”
Fletcher said businesses sending spam should expect to be caught and pay a fine, a point O’Loughlin echoed.
“The ACMA’s actions should serve as a reminder to others not to disregard customers’ wishes when it comes to unsubscribing from marketing material,” she warned.