Crackdown on illegal financial services marketing continues with formal warnings

The ACMA is continuing its clampdown on illegal marketing in the financial services sector with formal warnings issued to five companies for breaches of spam and telemarketing laws.

The financial services sector is subject to more complaints about spam and telemarketing than any other industry, with the ACMA receiving 791 complaints about telemarketing from financial service companies in the last three months, and 3,381 in the 2020-21 financial year.

Given the nature of the financial services industry, the harm perpetrated even by a small number of illegal calls or messages can be significant, particularly during recent times when people have been impacted by the pandemic.

Marketing practices can be a gateway to further financial harms and are particularly egregious when combined with breaches of financial or consumer law such as anti-hawking rules.

Separate investigations led to each of the five companies receiving a formal warning to comply with the rules in future.

The warnings put the businesses on notice that they must comply, including when outsourcing telemarketing and purchasing leads or lists of phone numbers.

Businesses must not make calls to numbers on the Do Not Call Register or send e-marketing such as email and SMS without consent. Where they have consent, they must be able to prove it with accurate and clear records.

Chase Edwards and its call centre Martin & Hunt were responsible for two breaches of the Do Not Call Register Act, due to calls offering free financial assessments made without consent to consumers on the register.

National Advice Service also made two calls to numbers on the register without consent, offering up financial advisors and superannuation advice.

Lastminuteloan.com.au were responsible for two breaches of the Spam Act 2003 for text messages without consent, notifying recipients that they had received approval for a loan of $200.

Credit24 sent a message advertising lines of credit to a person who had previously attempted to unsubscribe.

Over the past 18 months, businesses have paid $2,469,000 in ACMA infringement notices for breaking spam and telemarketing laws. The ACMA has also accepted 11 court-enforceable undertakings and issued 13 formal warnings to businesses in the same period.

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

Unlawful marketing by SMS, email and phone from the financial services sector is a 2021-22 ACMA compliance priority.

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