July 2, 2020 / 3:42 AM / in a month

UPDATE 1-Australia's Woolworths cites technical issues after spamming fine

(Recasts, adds comment from Woolworths digital arm)

July 2 (Reuters) - Australia’s Woolworths Group Ltd has paid a fine of A$1 million ($691,500) for over five million breaches of anti-spamming law, saying on Thursday that the breaches resulted from technical errors and the treatment of shared email addresses.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) imposed its largest-ever fine after finding the supermarket retailer sent marketing emails from October 2018 through July 2019 to customers who had unsubscribed from its mailing list.

“Woolworths failed to act even after the ACMA had warned it of potential compliance issues after receiving consumer complaints,” ACMA Chair Nerida O’Loughlin said in the statement. “The scale and prolonged nature of the non-compliance is inexcusable.”

Woolworths, in an emailed comment to Reuters, said the technical and systems issues that caused some of the breaches were fixed in 2019, and that other breaches involved the continued distribution of communications to a shared email address even after a member of the shared address requested it stop.

“The ACMA has made clear it expects all communications to an email address to stop in such scenarios,” said Amanda Bardwell, managing director of WooliesX - Woolworths’ digital, e-commerce and customer service unit.

The supermarket chain has also agreed to appoint an independent consultant to review its systems and report any other instance of non-compliance.

The issue comes about a week after the firm said complex wage regulations had left it underpaying staff at its pubs and liquor stores division, adding to a wage scandal that has enveloped some high-profile companies in Australia.

Woolworths shares pared some of their early Thursday gains to trade marginally higher after rising as much as 0.9% during the session. ($1 = 1.4461 Australian dollars)

Reporting by Shreya Mariam Job and Sameer Manekar in Bengaluru; Editing by Christopher Cushing

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