The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) today slammed the entire online retailing community for bending and breaking the Spam Act 2003 because of 'sloppy or cavalier' consent practices.
The announcement came as ACMA slapped online retailer Topbuy with a formal warning for sending three emails to consumers without the proper consent.
ACMA received complaints from consumers who alledgedly received emails despite having unsubscribed from, or never subscribed to, Topbuy's mailing list.
Chris Chapman, chairman and CEO of ACMA said Topbuy was being given a chance to ensure there are no more breaches - but he also extended the warning to the entire online retail industry.
"In this circumstance, a formal warning was issued to indicate the ACMA's concerns about contraventions and allow the business to take compliance action to prevent any future contraventions.
"Online retailers rely on email marketing, but time and time again the ACMA receives complaints about sloppy or cavalier consent practices. Topbuy and the online retailing industry more generally should consider themselves to be on notice," Chapman said in a statement.
Topbuy attempted to defend itself by claiming that in the case of at least one of the alleged breaches, consent had been obtained through a "family and friends" referral campaign - where consumers can nominate their friends or family to receive emails.
However, Chapman said this practice was illegal.
"Many businesses try to acquire clients through referrals from family and friends, but this is simply not allowed under the specific opt-in marketing provisions of the Spam Act... Consent to receive commercial electronic messages can only be given by the relevant electronic account-holder - the person responsible for that account - and not by another person.
"It's just not acceptable," he added.