Hyarchis has described the formal warning issued to it by ACMA over alleged SMS spam as a ‘slap in the face’ that sets a dangerous precedent for the entire web marketing industry.
The firm premium SMS marketing firm, which was last week formally warned by ACMA for alleged breaches of the Spam Act, has expressed its disappointment over the ruling, which SC understands involved three SMS messages sent to a single customer.
According to Hyarchis local agent, Peter Pichler, the user’s number was entered multiple times into a Hyarchis-owned web property, ezyfriends.net, in order to receive free content.
System records allegedly show that Hyarchis sent a compulsory SMS message to the user on each occasion to confirm that they wanted to receive the free content, and prompting them to take a unique code from the message and enter it into the website to proceed.
The user did not act on the messages, but instead reported them to ACMA as spam, according to Pichler.
This is where the story gets more interesting. The user’s mobile phone number is allegedly one of a handful of ‘unique electronic addresses’ – known colloquially as ‘fancy numbers’ – which contain a number of repeated digits. A hypothetical example would be 0499 999 999.
Hyarchis claims that the nature of these numbers makes them susceptible to abuse by third parties.
“Someone who was not the account holder thought it was a funny idea to enter a random number into one of our web ads,” said Pichler.
“Of course, the real account holder received a compulsory message from us [to verify if they wanted to join]. The customer immediately complained to ACMA who started an investigation and found us ‘guilty’ of spam for sending this compulsory message.”
According to Pichler, the ruling sets a very dangerous precedent for premium mobile and web marketing firms in general. This is because it places the onus on marketers to ensure that when a mobile number is entered into an online promotion, it has been entered by the account’s owner, and not at random.
“There’s no way to stop people entering wrong phone numbers on the web,” said Pichler.
SC also understands that part of ACMA’s complaint against Hyarchis may have evolved since the original warning. Comment is being sought from ACMA to verify the facts of the case.
Pichler said the allegations had damaged Hyarchis’ reputation in the market. He said the firm has been active through the Communications Alliance in addressing some of the more common perceptions of the premium SMS sector.
“We’ve never had any problems before with ACMA,” said Pichler.
“We’re not known for being aggressive in the premium SMS space. What we have been is very active in trying to resolve issues in the industry. We’re one of the first to offer 24x7 customer support and a 100 percent refund guarantee, so the warning is just a slap in the face for us.
“We’ve been slapped down for something really minor. When you Google our name this comes up. It’s not good. It’s an absolute over-reaction.”
Comment is being sought from ACMA.
Hyarchis sets record straight on spam warning
By Ry Crozier on Nov 24, 2008 4:06PM