$15.75 Million fine for SMS Spammers

25 10 2009

The Federal Court has issued a fine of $15.75 Million against spammers found guilty of using an elaborate scheme to deceptively obtain mobile phone numbers and spam them.

In August 2009 the Australian Communications and Media Authority (‘ACMA’) obtained default judgment against Mobilegate Ltd and Winning Bid Pty Ltd – and three individuals – Mr Simon Anthony Owen, Mr Tarek Andreas Salcedo and Mr Glenn Christopher Maughan.

The action commenced in late 2008 when the ACMA learned of the highly organised plan, where the ACMA alleges the spammers obtained mobile telephone numbers from dating websites, after posing as members of these websites. It is then alleged that:

  • after the numbers were obtained, unsolicited messages were sent to the mobile phone numbers offering the opportunity to chat via SMS using services described as the ‘Safe Divert’ or ‘Maybemeet’ services;
  • the chat was not offered by genuine members of dating websites but employees of Mobilegate and Winning Bid;
  • consumers were charged up to five dollars per message; and
  • when users questioned whether the messages were from a real person, they were told that it was a real person who was using the “Safe Divert” service to keep their mobile phone number private.

The ACMA claims that the spammers obtained more than $2 million from their scheme, which was in contravention of the Spam Act 2003.

The judgment is seen as a win for the ACMA in its fight against breaches of the Spam Act 2003, and is sure to serve as a serious warning to potential spammers.

Earlier this year the ACMA issued fines against Optus for breaches of the Spam Act 2003, as part of its campaign against spammers.

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