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Prolific spammer got off lightly with $120k penalty - IITP boss

Auckland-based Image Marketing Group has agreed to pay a $120,000 penalty to the Crown for spamming.

The penalty was agreed upon by company director Brendan Paul Battles and the Department of Internal Affairs, and approved by the High Court at Auckland.

In a just-released decision, Justice Mary Peters says the company breached the Unsolicited Electronic Messages Act 2007 four times from February 2009 to December 2010.

Originally, the starting point for negotiating the penalty was $160,000, but Justice Peters reduced it to $120,000 because Mr Battles cooperated.

“The acknowledgement of liability avoids the very substantial costs the taxpayer would incur if a trial were required, that trial being estimated to take seven days,” she says in the decision.

Got off lightly
"Image Marketing Group and Brendan Battles are prolific spammers, who were apparently still sending bulk spam in 2011 when the matter was before the courts," Institute of IT Professionals CEO Paul Matthews tells NBR.

"Given how major the operation was, and the fact they were initially up for a maximum of $2.1 million in fines, the eventual fine could be considered at the lighter end," Mr Matthews says.

"Many people suspect what was proven in court was likely just the tip of the iceberg, but hopefully this marks the end of spam from this corner of the web and serves as a warning to others thinking of doing the same."

Prolific
Between February to March 2009, Image Marketing Group was responsible for more than 44,800 text messages to mobile telephones connected to networks operated by Telecom and Vodafone. These sought to promote the sale of a product known as an “Antenna Booster”.

In September 2009, the company sold a database with about 50,000 email addresses to a third party, Dean Letfus. Mr Letfus paid $1000 and sent messages to the email addresses in the database, marketing and promoting goods and services. About 400 recipients complained.

In December 2009, Mr Battles logged into his account with Ezymsg Pty, an Australian web-based marketing and database management service, and sent nearly 520,000 messages.

In 2010, the company continued to send unwanted messages to New Zealanders as part of 21 email advertising campaigns by Image Marketing Group.

The Department of Internal Affairs received 69 complaints in respect of the 2010 messages. The number of messages Mr Battles sent remains unknown, according to the court judgment.

sflores@nbr.co.nz