The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has dished out a fresh $2.5 million fine to Pizza Hut Australia.

This penalty comes after an ACMA investigation found the company sent more than 10 million marketing messages over just four months that violated the Spam Act.

“The spam rules have been in place for over 20 years, and there is simply no excuse for failing to uphold the rights of consumers,” said ACMA member Samantha Yorke.

According to the Investigation Report published by the regulator, unsolicited emails made up the biggest slice of the action.

Pizza Hut was found to have sent out nearly 6 million emails to individuals who had already unsubscribed or who had never signed up for marketing communications in the first place, violating subsection 16 of the Act.

“Some of the customers involved had attempted to unsubscribe several times and received multiple messages after trying to stop them,” Yorke added.

Additionally, the Pizza Hut sent more than 4.3 million emails and texts that did not provide users with a functioning unsubscribe option, as required by subsection 18 of the Act.

The company was also found to have violated subsection 17, sending 100 communications that did not contain accurate contact information.

It’s not just the dough

A multi-million dollar fine is not the only penalty that’s been served up.

Pizza Hut Australia has also accepted a legally-enforceable agreement to ensure future compliance with the Spam Act, which it will be required to adhere to for a period of three years.

As part of this undertaking, the company has agreed to engage an independent consultant, who will be tasked with reviewing the fast food company’s communication policies, processes, training and systems for adherence to the law.

In addition to working with Pizza Hut to identify deficiencies and recommend improvements, the consultant is required to submit a written review of the company’s compliance to the ACMA within six months of their appointment.

The consultant will then submit a new report every 12 months until the end of the three-year period.

Pizza Hut itself is also required to provide regular reports to the ACMA, who will be keeping them on a tight leash for the foreseeable future.

ACMA taking on spam at the sauce

Over the past 18 months, the ACMA has issued more than $15 million in fines for failures to uphold the unsubscribe rules alone.

The regulator has said it will continue current enforcement activities and that this latest breach should be a message to other businesses to take direct marketing laws seriously.

“The penalties for breaching can be very serious, and all companies that conduct e-marketing should check their compliance systems are working effectively so they’re not spamming customers,” Yorke explained.

This year has already seen Outdoor Supacentre fined $300,000 and eyewear retailer Luxottica pay out $1.5 million for failing to include unsubscribe options in their communications and for sending messages to customers who had already opted out.

Luxottica owns a broad portfolio of brands, including Sunglass Hut, Oakley, Ray-Ban and OPSM.

Last year, ACMA fined Kmart $1.5 million fine after an investigation found that the retailer had sent more than 200,000 emails to customers who had already unsubscribed.

It also fined DoorDash $2 million for sending more than a million communications to individuals who had previously opted out, and a record penalty of $3.5 million to CBA for sending more than 65 million spam emails.

Ticketek and Uber were also issued hefty fines in 2023 for spam activities.