In a landmark decision last 23 October, the Federal Court in Brisbane imposed $15.75 million in penalties for contraventions of the Spam Act 2003.
The decision was made against Mobilegate Ltd and Winning Bid Pty Ltd following the Australian Communications and Media Authority’s first court action taken against unsolicited SMS messages.
‘This is a significant outcome for all mobile phone users,’ said Chris Cheah, Acting Chair of the ACMA. ‘The maximum penalties provided for under the Spam Act are very high. The ACMA considers that the substantial penalties imposed by the court in this case show that spam will not be tolerated in Australia.’
In August 2009, two companies – Mobilegate Ltd and Winning Bid Pty Ltd – and three individuals – Mr Simon Anthony Owen, Mr Tarek Andreas Salcedo and Mr Glenn Christopher Maughan – were found, by default judgment of the Court, to have contravened the Spam Act and the Trade Practices Act 1974.
‘In the ACMA’s view the conduct of these respondents was particularly malicious and deceitful as it deliberately and systematically preyed upon vulnerable people, offering false hope and expectations,’ Mr Cheah said.
The ACMA instituted proceedings against eight respondents in the Federal Court in December 2008, alleging contraventions of both Acts in relation to premium SMS chat services. The ACMA alleged that the respondents were engaged in a complicated scheme to obtain mobile phone numbers from members of dating websites, using fake member profiles, in order to send commercial electronic messages by SMS.