Cellarmaster Wines slammed with $110,000 fine for spam

Liquor chain Cellarmaster Wines has paid an infringement notice of over $100,000 for its email marketing which breached the Spam Act, following an investigation by the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

Cellarmaster Wines has paid $110,000 for sending marketing messages as part of its email promotions which did not have an opt-out facility. Some messages were sent to customers who had previously opted out.

The fine has sparked a warning for businesses about their own email messages, with one expert warning to monitor email systems as closely as possible.

Marketing Angels founder Michelle Gamble says cases like this are not uncommon where businesses have accidentally emailed people who have unsubscribed, but there are methods you can use to safeguard your business.

“You need to be really careful that you’re compliant with the spam regulations. Some programs are really well set up to have automatic opt outs, but when people try and do it themselves in-house or through Outlook, they’re not using this automatic technology and it’s easy to come unstuck,” she says.

The 2003 Spam Act states commercial electronic messaging in Australia can only be sent to a person with their consent, if it contains accurate information about the person or organisation which authorised the sending of the message. It must also contain a functional “unsubscribe” option.

ACMA chairman Chris Chapman said in a statement this is a case where a business has “failed to take sufficient care in managing its Spam Act responsibilities”.

“As a result, Cellarmaster Wines has found itself in hot water, not only with the ACMA but with its customers,” Chapman says.

SmartCompany contacted Cellarmaster Wines but received no response prior to publication.

Gamble says one of her company’s clients didn’t have an opt-out function at all and while they weren’t “rapped over the knuckles” by ACMA, it damaged its customer relations.

“The company literally could not do any emailing for months while it fixed its emails and the customers were not happy. It can really harm a business,” she warns.

“There’s nothing worse than if you keep sending stuff to people who don’t want it anymore. As well as losing existing customers, you’ll also lose potential customers from the negative word of mouth,” she says.

In order to prevent people from wanting to unsubscribe in the first place, Gamble says to segment the email lists as much as possible.

“The smaller the list, the more tailored the communications. Spreets and some of the other buying sites are doing this now, they’re splitting their emails up into sections such as travel and homewares.

“Try and send a single message – if you’re running a specific offer or campaign, just send an email promoting that specific promotion, don’t put it in with the regular email,” she says.

If you’re designing your emails well, Gamble says there’s no problem in sending daily emails, but giving people the option of just receiving a weekly email is another option to stop people unsubscribing if customers don’t like the frequency.

These warnings from ACMA are common. Earlier this year, group buying site Groupon was issued a warning from ACMA when consumers complained unsubscribing from one newsletter did not unsubscribe them from other Groupon emails.



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