Uber fined $412,500 for spam

By AdNews | 26 October 2023

Uber has been fined $412,500 for sending more than 2 million emails in breach of Australian spam laws.

An Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) investigation found the rideshare company sent more than 2 million marketing emails to customers without an unsubscribe facility.

More than 500,000 of the messages were sent to customers who had previously unsubscribed.

The emails were sent on a single day in January this year as part of an advertising campaign for an alcohol home delivery service. The investigation found that the breaches occurred because Uber mischaracterised the emails as non-commercial.

ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin said it was unacceptable that a company like Uber that conducts high volume marketing did not have robust systems in place to consistently and accurately categorise consumer messages.

“In this case, an avoidable error has led to more than 2 million messages being sent without a way for people to unsubscribe," she said.

"This error was compounded by the fact that half a million of those messages were sent to people who had previously opted out.”

“Consumers are fed up with their wishes not being respected. People rightly expect to have choice over who contacts them for marketing purposes."

In a statement to AdNews, an Uber spokesperson said: “Simply put, we made a mistake in sending out these marketing emails, and we worked collaboratively with ACMA to address and resolve it.

"We apologise to everyone who was impacted by this oversight.  We take seriously our obligations under the Spam Act, and we have introduced additional measures to prevent this from happening again.”

The Spam Act requires businesses to have consent before they can send direct electronic marketing messages to consumers. Businesses must also provide recipients with the option to unsubscribe within messages.

O'Loughlin said ACMA is actively monitoring Uber’s compliance and will not hesitate to take stronger action if it doesn’t comply in the future.

“This is a warning to all businesses conducting e-marketing that they should be actively and regularly reviewing their marketing to ensure it is compliant," she said.

“We are particularly concerned about direct marketing that involves gambling, alcohol and ‘buy-now, pay-later' products and services that may lead to significant harm for people in vulnerable circumstances.”

This action follows recent enforcement taken against other companies that have breached the spam laws, including Ticketek, DoorDash and CommBank.

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