A marketing company has been ordered to pay $120,000 for sending up to 500 spam messages via email and text messages _ the largest penalty imposed for sending spam in New Zealand, the Internal Affairs Department says.

The civil case was brought against Auckland company Image Marketing Group (IMG) by the department under the Unsolicited Electronic Messages Act.

It was heard in the High Court at Auckland yesterday.

Read the court's decision here.


The company had sent out 519,545 messages to New Zealand email addresses by IMG in December 2009.

In 2010 IMG targeted New Zealanders again during 21 email advertising campaigns, which promoted sales of the company's database products for between $1000 and $2000, the court was told.

Nearly 45,000 text messages were sent to Vodafone and Telecom mobile users over a period of a month in 2009.

The department took action against the company after receiving about 500 complaints from the public. IMG admitted that the messages sent to these people were spam.

Electronic messaging compliance team leader Toni Demetriou said the result was an excellent outcome.

"IMG must now stop sending any further spam to New Zealand electronic addresses. This is a clear win for consumers who are sick and tired of receiving unwanted messages via email or texts.

"I encourage people to report electronic spam to us so that we can take action to stop this disruptive and unwanted activity," he said.

The IMG text messages were sent from an Australian mobile number to New Zealand mobile users. They contained a hyperlink to a website promoting a mobile phone antenna booster, the department said.

When address holders sought to unsubscribe by replying to the messages they were charged the usual fee for sending a text message.

IMG also sold a database of about 50,000 email addresses to a third party.

IMG said it believed the recipients of the email and text messages had consented to receive commercial electronic messages.