ISPA fines Afrihost for sending mass spam!
You might remember when MyBroadband.co.za censored my Afrihost support query after I received a barrage of spam. My ISPA complaint about Afrihost’s unsolicited email- and SMS communications to thousands of Afrihost users who had opted out from receiving marketing communication was then also met with a permanent ban by MyBroadband and Afrihost blocked me on their Twitter page.
When I started receiving unsolicited mail and SMS from Afrihost, I reached out to their support team and was ignored.
Afrihost’s R4000 fibre signup SPAM-emails contained non-working unsubscribe links or did not contain any unsubscribe links at all. The e-mails had been sent to customers multiple times despite having opted out of marketing communications. Emails were sent as Gian (the Afrihost CEO):
Afrihost’s CEO, Gian Visser as well as Artur da Silva (Afrihost General Manager) reached out after they received the ISPA complaint confirmation. The ethics of “reaching out” are questionable as from past experience, Afrihost staff has been immoral and dishonest – this has been proven, when Afrihost’s social media team member, Suveshnan attempted to manipulate Afrihost’s Wikipedia page and was subsequently warned for Conflict of Interest Editing:
ISPA fines Afrihost R14,000 for sending spam
ISPA found Afrihost guilty for several violations of the ISPA Code of Conduct:
D.10: In their dealings with consumers, other businesses, each other and ISPA, ISPA members must act fairly, reasonably, professionally and in good faith. In particular, pricing and other material information about services must be clearly and accurately conveyed to customers and potential customers.
I find that the behavior of the Respondent’s staff in contravening Wikipedia codes relating to conflict of interest was unprofessional.
F.16: ISPA members must not send or promote the sending of unsolicited electronic communications and must take reasonable measures to ensure that their networks are not used by others for this purpose.
The Respondent did send spam email.
F.17: ISPA members must provide a facility for dealing with complaints regarding unsolicited electronic communications originating from their networks and must react expeditiously to complaints received.
The Respondent’s unsubscribe mechanism was faulty.
I.23: ISPA members must conduct themselves lawfully at all times and must co-operate with law enforcement authorities within the applicable legal framework.
By sending spam, the Respondent breached the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act.
I find the Respondent to have breached D.10, F.16 and F.17 and I.23. The Respondent is fined as follows-
All to be paid within 7 (seven) days of publication of this report.
ISPA ruling against Afrihost appealed – fine is too small!
While I appreciate ISPA ruling, I consider the fine of R14,000.00 too small and disproportional to the damage being done and I have subsequently appealed the ISPA ruling with the following recommendations:
- ISPA to rule against B.3 (Freedom of Expression) as Afrihost has made deliberate attempts (blocking on Twitter, editing of Wikipedia, deletion of posts on MyBroadband) to delete the history of their spam actions.
- ISPA to rule that Afrihost unblocks my access to Afrihost’s Twitter account as the block was implemented due to my ISPA complaint
- Afrihost to post a public apology about the spam incident on their website and all social media channels with the detailed explanation on how users can opt out of marketing emails. While I don’t think this will ever happen, I have written a comprehensive guide on how to report spam.
- ISPA to increase the fines for the various breaches to be representative of the actual breach and impact.
Further, ISPA’s dismissal of B.3 (Freedom of Expression) was reasoned that customers like myself have other channels (blog) to express our opinion. I appealed this reasoning as I do not find it reasonable that a regular customer will have the technical means / options to host a blog. This becomes even more relevant as Afrihost in my case blocked me from all their public facing support channels (Twitter, MyBroadband) and attempted to manipulate Wikipedia.