Property developer spams itself in the foot

Sydney company Meriton Investments is facing a public relations disaster after a spam-handed attempt to drum up new customers went seriously awry.

The property development company is being hit by sulphurous fallout from an ill-advised spam campaign based on an e-mail list of dubious provenance, composed primarily of high-profile Queensland IT professionals.

"We are in absolute damage control at the moment," said Meriton business development manager James Roney.

Meriton's difficulties started when the residential apartment developer, owned by property billionaire Harry Triguboff, launched a spam mailout based on a confidential mailing list. Meriton did not have permission to use the list, which appears to be owned by a Queensland industry body, the Gold Coast Regional IT Forum.

Dedicated to IT development, the forum's membership includes hundreds of prominent individuals in business, academic and community circles.

Forum chairman Geoff Provest wants Meriton to destroy all its copies, apologise for misusing the list and provide assurances it will not do so again.

"We are in correspondence with the company, but in my view conducting a public debate won't achieve any purpose," said Provest.

Compounding Meriton's woes, it copied recipients' private e-mail addresses -- 420 of them -- in clear text at the top of each message that went out.

In addition to aiming angry replies at Meriton's list server, recipients found other ways of making their displeasure known. That included unearthing the e-mail addresses of senior Meriton executives and inviting the list to contact them directly. Others posted contact details of the NSW Privacy Commissioner along with suggestions to send individual complaints about the situation.

Many of the responses were sent to every mailbox listed in the original header, further inflaming the situation. "What really irritated me was that everyone shared their indignation with the entire list, so I ended up getting another 20 or 40 emails," said list member Liz Manning, CEO of the Queensland branch of Software Engineering Australia.

How the list came into Meriton's possession is now the subject of an internal company inquiry. According to the Gold Coast Regional IT Forum, the full distribution list was sent out because of a server error and Meriton may have taken a copy at this time.

Meriton's Roney said the list was forwarded to him "through someone that was in [our] office. We saw a marketing opportunity because we were dealing with elite people in the IT world."

Meriton has apologised and Roney said he had been "stuck in meetings for two days trying to sort this mess out while everyone seems to be running for cover".

He pointed out that spamming is not illegal in Australia and said some recipients had responded positively to the spam message by taking up the "investment opportunity" it was offering.

Roney attributed the negative reaction to "a small group of five or six people that are really pushing it. I can apologise until the cows come home but it seems they are either opportunists or they have nothing better to do with their time."

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Pete Young

Computerworld
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?