The Australian Communications and Media Authority says McDonald's violated the country's Spam Act with a "send to friends" function of its Happy Meal website, The Brisbane Courier-Mail reported Monday.
Emails promoting games and activities were sent without the recipients' consent and did not have an unsubscribe option, both violations of the Spam Act, the ACMA said.
"This case should alert businesses that they must think carefully before using `friend get friend' marketing," ACMA Chairman Chris Chapman said.
The Spam Act requires all promotional emails and text messages must be sent only with the recipient's consent, must identify the source of the message and must provide a mechanism for unsubscribing from the service.
"When sending your marketing messages, you must make sure that there is consent from the actual person who is going to receive your message," Chapman said. "You can't just assume consent has been given."
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