We *bet* you won’t see this one coming...

Spambet - a lesson on interacting with consumers

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Live on the quaddie? Sportsbet has been SLAMMED with a requirement to pay $3.7 million in penalties and refunds for illegally spamming people. After the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) caught wind of marketing messages landing in the inboxes of those who have unsubscribed, the gambling company has been forced to pay $2.5 million in infringement notices and will refund $1.2 million to customers. Over a 14 month period beginning January 2020, Sportsbet sent over 150,000 texts and 37,000 emails to consumers who had unsubscribed from their marketing. What’s even better (sarcasm) is 3,000 texts were found to have no unsubscribe function (red flag city). 

Now, the issue isn’t the fact that the messages incentivised gambling (that whole other very important thing that shut down tobacco advertising). No, rather the extreme violation of spam laws in Australia. Nerida O’Loughlin, Chair of ACMA said Sportsbet’s actions “had the real potential to contribute to financial and emotional harm… we received complaints from people stating they were experiencing gambling-related problems and were trying to manage the issue by unsubscribing from Sportsbet’s promotions.” A spokesperson from Sportsbet said the noncompliance “resulted from technical and system failures that regrettably meant not all customer unsubscribe requests were actioned in a timely manner.”  The consequence for Sportsbet is losing the profits made from lost bets that came off the back of these spam messages, as well as the record fine from ACMA.

The ACMA has very strict laws around spam. It all starts with consent from a recipient, implying or expressing that they are willing to receive marketing materials in their inbox. This is why you often see a tick box (usually prefilled) opting in to marketing communication from a brand you’re purchasing from. In addition to requesting permission, your emails must have a recognisable sender so that recipients can contact you. Don’t conceal your business identity when mailing out campaigns… though we’re not sure why you’d want to as that seems a little pointless? And lastly, the factor Sportsbet seemingly missed is under the Spam Act 2003, campaigns must make it easy to unsubscribe from electronic mailing lists. Every commercial message is required to contain an ‘unsubscribe’ option that:

  • Has clear instructions 

  • Honours the request within 5 working days 

  • Does not require a fee to be paid 

  • Does not cost more than a usual amount for address use (i.e. standard text charge)

  • Remains functional for 30 days after send date 

As a consumer, if you see an organisation breaking the spam laws, you can notify the ACMA. As a business who may have broken the spam laws, letting the ACMA know as soon as possible might help resolve the problem without requiring further action. One thing is for sure, you don’t want to ‘bet with mates’ like Sportsbet when it comes to taking a gamble on spamming Aussies. Ask for permission, say who you are, and always, always include an unsub link!