You gotta love New Zealand. Yes, it’s the home of breathtaking landscapes, those cute, cuddly little koalas, the somewhat mystifying but delicious kiwi fruit, and probably a host of other stereotypes. But it’s also home to the Unsolicited Electronic Messages Act of 2007, and unlike some other countries which will remain nameless, their spam legislation is not only meant to be used, it has teeth. Serious teeth.
And last week, that’s what West Australian businessman Wayne Mansfield discovered when he got bitten by the law designed to keep our inboxes safe from junk, whether it be illegitimate or legitimate. Mansfield, you see, thought it was okay to spam people about his business seminars. And this is a malady that we know only too well: marketers who assume that just because the Internet’s there and just because there are people out there who are connected to it, marketers seem to make the false assumption that we’re plopped in front of our screens just waiting for unsolicited crap to change our lives with business seminars, holiday sales, super cheap prescription drugs, and countless other unwanted pitches.
Well, Mr. Mansfield got his wakeup call when the New Zealand High Court fined him NZD $95,000 (roughly USD $77,000) for sending unwanted messages to users between April and September 2010. The New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs received 53 complaints during that time, and unlike other countries which continue to remain nameless, the government there actually does something about the social disease known as spam.
The judge in the case had no problem slapping the hefty fine on the spammer, who advertised seminars on social media marketing, negotiating, power selling and time shifting, whatever that is. According to WA Today, one of his spam messages was entitled “Someone is waiting for your call – don’t be a Cold Calling Scaredy Cat.” The irony is delicious, of course, because after this, Mr. Mansfield will most likely be the King of the scaredy cats, or at least he should be.
The offense took place over four seminars offered in Auckland, NZ, with seats for the events selling at NZD $199 (about USD $160). Even though Mansfield is an Australian and the messages originated from Australia, Justice Edwin Wylie ruled that the New Zealand anti-spam law applied in this case and threw the book at Mansfield.
When the Department of Internal Affairs first contacted Mansfield about the complaints, Mansfield provided a database of approximately 67,000 email addresses that were recipients of his spam. Mansfield apparently stated that he normally ‘only’ sent around 10,000 emails, but that hardly makes him an innocent here. According to WA Today, the judge in the matter noted that the “message [sic] were unsolicited because a number of the complainants did nto [sic] have a business relationship with mansfield [sic], they continued to receive messages even after hitting the “unsubscribe” button and Mansfield admitted he had purchased the email addresses from a third party, the Image Marketing Group.”
Email marketers take note: WA Today reports that Mr. Mansfield told the Department of Internal Affairs that he changed his IP address after his messages became blocked by Internet providers. Now, this type of behavior is not acceptable, and deeming yourself to be ‘legitimate’ doesn’t give you the right to inject black hat tactics into your marketing campaigns.
The judge in the case noted that Mansfield has probably sent out hundreds of thousands of spam emails and maybe even close to a million, and he pointed out that “in such circumstances, express, inferred or deemed consent to the receipt of emails from Mr [sic] Mansfield or Business Seminars NZ is inherently unlikely.” Yeah, you go, judge! If you were over here in North America, you’d be a folk hero and already have your own television show.
And it turns out that this isn’t Mansfield’s first infraction. We reported on Mr. Mansfield last year, and in 2006, it’s reported by WA Today, Mansfield was “fined $1 million personally and his company Clarity1 $4.5 million by The Australian Federal Court for sending 75 million emails between April 2004 and April 2006.” It’s not known if these numbers are in Australian or New Zealand dollars, but hey, who cares? Sounds like this dude’s going to have a sore wallet for a while. Hopefully, this will be a message to legitimate marketers everywhere to back off. The public’s just not going to take it anymore. Period. End of story.