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Crash, Spam, Wallop! NZ firm smacked with record $120k fine

15 Feb 2014

Auckland firm Image Marketing Group (IMG) has been stung with a record $120,000 fine, after inundating Kiwis with over half a million spam messages.

Sent across both email and text, the fine is the largest imposed for such an act in New Zealand, according to the Internal Affairs Department in Auckland’s High Court.

Between the end of February 2009 and the end of March 2009, IMG sent or caused to be sent no fewer than 44,824 text messages to mobile telephones connected to networks operated in New Zealand by Telecom and Vodafone.

The 2009 text messages sought to promote the sale of a product known as an “Antenna Booster”, with the Department receiving nine complaints in respect of the text messages.

“It is common ground that the text messages were “commercial electronic messages that [had] a New Zealand link”,” the court report reads.

“It is also now common ground that the text messages, at least in respect of those recipients who complained, were “unsolicited” in that the recipient had not “consented to receiving” them, as that phrase is defined in s 4(1) of the Act.

“Other important features of the text messages were that they did not include accurate sender information and did not include an “unsubscribe” facility, those two omissions constituting breaches of ss 10 and 11 of the Act.

“Those breaches were committed in respect of every text message, not only those which were unsolicited.”

In September 2009, the court heard that IMG also sold a database containing approximately 50,000 email addresses to a third party, Dean Letfus, who paid $1,000 for the purchase of the database.

Letfus then sent messages to the email addresses in the database, marketing and promoting goods and services, subsequently receiving approximately 400 complaints from recipients of his email.

Piling more misery on Kiwis, in December of the same year, IMG sent or caused to be sent 2,009 email messages to computers connected to the internet and located in New Zealand.

According to the report, IMG operated an account with Ezymsg Pty Limited (“Ezymsg”), an Australian web-based marketing and database management service.

Further enquiries of Ezymsg indicate that 519,545 such messages were sent in total.

IMG claimed it believed the recipients of the email and text messages had consented to receive commercial electronic messages in the first instance.