ACMA tackles illegal financial services marketing

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has taken action against three financial services companies following investigations that found they had breached either spam or telemarketing laws.

The companies – Phoenix Securities Pty Ltd (Phoenix Securities), Forex EA Pty Ltd trading as My Alfred (My Alfred) and Pineapple Funding Pty Ltd (Pineapple Funding) – were found to have sent emails, texts or made phone calls offering unsolicited financial services without consent.

ACMA Chair Nerida O’Loughlin said the financial services sector is one of the most complained about areas for telemarketing.

“Australians can experience significant economic harm when financial services companies break the rules,” Ms O’Loughlin said.

“Those in vulnerable circumstances are particularly at risk when out of the blue they’re offered what sounds like easy money or fast loans. Stopping this kind of unlawful marketing is a priority for us.”

The ACMA accepted court-enforceable undertakings requiring the three companies to undergo an independent consultant’s review of their systems, procedures and compliance with the Spam Act 2003 and in some instances the Do Not Call Register Act 2006.

The undertakings also require the companies to train staff about their compliance obligations and report back to the ACMA on how they are implementing the independent consultant’s recommendations.

The ACMA commenced separate investigations into the three companies following consumer complaints about their marketing messages or phone calls.

Phoenix Securities paid a $26,640 infringement notice in addition to its undertaking after the ACMA found it had sent over 3,000 emails offering business loans without consent, breaching the Spam Act.

Software development company My Alfred offered an undertaking after the ACMA found it had made 14 calls offering its automated trading system to numbers listed on the Do Not Call Register without consent, breaching the Do Not Call Register Act.

Loan broker Pineapple Funding offered an undertaking to the ACMA after it sent 175 texts offering pre-approvals and interest-free periods for business loans to business owners without their consent, breaching the Spam Act.

Unlawful financial service marketing is a compliance priority for the ACMA. Over the past 18 months businesses have paid nearly $900,000 in ACMA-issued infringement notices for breaking spam and telemarketing laws. The ACMA has also accepted 12 court-enforceable undertakings and issued seven formal warnings to businesses. Financial services businesses have been prominent in these enforcement outcomes.

The ACMA’s actions are having a deterrent effect, with complaints about unlawful financial services marketing reducing by one-third in the first half of 2021-22.

Enforcement action for breaches of Australia’s unsolicited communications laws can include formal warnings, infringement notices, court-enforceable undertakings and action in the Federal Court.

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