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Australia’s Federal Court has fined two companies and three individuals $15.75 million for contravening the Spam and Trade Practices Acts, in the first court action taken by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) against unsolicited SMS messages.

Three individuals ­ former Winning Bid director Simon Anthony Owen, Mobilegate director Tarek Andreas Salcedo and Winning Bid employee Glenn Christopher Maughan ­ were found responsible for the breaches.

ACMA will pursue three more respondents ­ Glenn Christopher Maughan, Scott Mark Moles and Scott Gregory Phillips ­ in a full hearing on November 30.

It claims the operators posted fake member profiles on dating Web sites to gather mobile phone numbers and lure men into paying up to $5 a message for SMS sex chat services. Unsolicited messages sent to these numbers offered SMS chat using services described as Safe Divert or Maybemeet.

The chat victims didn’t get to “chat” to genuine members of dating Web sites but to employees of Mobilegate and Winning Bid.

When punters questioned whether messages were from a real person, they were told that they were, but the individual was using the Safe Divert service to keep their mobile phone number private.

“The maximum penalties provided for under the Spam Act are very high,” ACMA acting chairman Chris Cheah said. “The substantial penalties imposed by the court in this case show that spam will not be tolerated in Australia.”

ACMA estimates the scheme generated more than $2 million. In the only other Spam Act ACMA court proceeding, the Federal Court in 2006 penalised Clarity1 and Wayne Mansfield a total of $5.5 million for sending unsolicited e-mails and using harvested address lists.


 

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