Car sales website fined for spamming mobile phones, Sophos reports

April 05, 2005 Sophos Press Release

Nokia phone
The car sales website spammed mobile phone users with unsolicited messages.

A car sales website based in Melbourne has become the first Australian company fined for spamming mobile phones, after authorities found it had sent unwanted SMS text messages to phone numbers taken from newspaper classified ads.

The carsales.com.au website was given a AU $6500 fine by the Australian Communications Authority (ACA) for sending unsolicited commercial SMS messages in breach of the 2003 Spam Act, following complaints from the general public.

According to an ACA spokesperson, this is the first time an Australian company has been fined for sending spam messages to mobile phones.

"People selling their cars advertised their phone numbers in newspaper classified ads expecting only that potential private buyers would contact them," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "The car website may have thought it was being creative in sending these advertisements to mobile phones, but instead their messages were an unsolicited irritation and nuisance."

Newspaper advertisers had given no consent to receiving the unsolicited commercial messages, according to acting ACA chairman, Dr Bob Horton. Consent could not be implied simply because the phone numbers had been published.

Curiously, at the time of writing, the carsales.com.au website contains details of how it gathers mobile phone numbers for delivering SMS text messages. The website's privacy statement says that mobile phone numbers are "copied from classified advertisements which were most likely published in newspapers and magazines."

The car sales website explains how it gathers mobile phone numbers for delivering SMS text messages.
The car sales website explains how it gathers mobile phone numbers for delivering SMS text messages.

The website's privacy statement goes on to declare that they do not believe they are breaking anti-spam legislation by sending the SMS text messages to mobile phone users.