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Uber Fined $412,500 for Sending 2 Million Unwanted Emails

This penalty comes as a consequence of Uber’s breach of Australian spam laws by sending over 2 million unsolicited emails to its customers.

An investigation carried out by ACMA revealed that Uber had been sending marketing emails without providing a clear option for recipients to unsubscribe. Even more concerning, over 500,000 of these emails were dispatched to individuals who had previously opted out from receiving such communications.

These emails were sent on a single day in January 2023 and were primarily promoting an alcohol home delivery service. However, Uber incorrectly categorized these messages as non-commercial.

Interestingly, rival delivery service DoorDash found itself in a similar predicament and was penalized earlier in the year. In comparison, Uber’s fine of $412,500 appears lenient when contrasted with DoorDash’s hefty $2 million penalty for sending over one million text messages and emails in violation of Australian spam regulations.

Nerida O’Loughlin, the Chair of ACMA, expressed her disapproval of Uber’s actions, labeling them as an “avoidable error” to send over 2 million messages without providing an unsubscribe option. She further emphasized that this mistake was exacerbated by the fact that half a million of these messages were dispatched to recipients who had previously opted out.

Consumers, O’Loughlin pointed out, are increasingly frustrated with their preferences not being respected. People rightfully expect the choice to decide who contacts them for marketing purposes.

According to the Spam Act, businesses are required to obtain consent before sending direct electronic marketing messages to consumers. Additionally, they must include an option for recipients to easily unsubscribe within the messages.

O’Loughlin issued a stern warning, stating, “We are 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.”

ACMA is diligently monitoring direct marketing activities involving gambling, alcohol, and ‘buy-now, pay-later’ services, recognizing the potential for significant harm to individuals in vulnerable circumstances.

In response to the fine, an Uber spokesperson acknowledged the company’s mistake and introduced new measures to prevent such incidents from recurring. They also issued an apology to all those affected by this oversight.

Over the past 18 months, ACMA’s compliance priorities have led to penalties totaling $11 million for breaches related to spam and telemarketing. Notable entities such as Ticketek, DoorDash, and CommBank have also faced the consequences of violating the legislation.

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