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Dutch charity lotteries are fined again for unnecessarily annoying consumers

OPTA has imposed fines on three major charity lotteries in the Netherlands as well as on the holding of Dutch charity lotteries, totaling EUR 200,000 for sending spam emails. Between October 1, 2009 and June 30, 2010, these charity lotteries sent over 78 million commercial emails for which no permission had been given or for which permission had been asked improperly.
This course of events has led to the following forms of consumer annoyances:

  • It was not clear enough or not clear at all to consumers who had played an online game that they would receive commercial emails from the charity lotteries in question.
  • Participants in the charity lotteries in question received commercial emails even though they had not indicated they wished to receive any.
  • If participants in the charity lotteries in question wished not to receive any emails, they faced barriers that were unnecessarily high. Participants were informed of the option to unregister for these emails by regular mail.
  • Because multiple newsletters were sent and different sender addresses were used, recipients had to file multiple unregistration requests in order to be sure that they would no longer receive any emails from any of the charity lotteries.

Annoyance about sales calls as well

OPTA received complaints about the emails sent by the charity lotteries through consumer information desk ConsuWijzer  and online spam-complaint desk www.spamklacht.nl . Another source of consumer annoyance were the sales call methods used by the charity lotteries. So far, OPTA has fined the charity lotteries twice for violation of the Dutch telemarketing regulations. That is why OPTA demanded from the charity lotteries to come up with concrete plans explaining how they would reduce consumer annoyance with their emails and sales calls. The charity lotteries gave OPTA a compliance program, which explained their business operations and organizational cultures. OPTA will continue to keep a close watch on the sales call methods used by the charity lotteries.
As of April 1, 2013, oversight on the charity lotteries will be taken over by the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets. This new market authority is created through the merger of OPTA and the Netherlands Consumer Authority and the Netherlands Competition Authority.

The charity lotteries have the opportunity to file objections and appeals against the fines.