ASTCA launches complaint with AG over Bluesky tactics
The Attorney General’s office has launched an official investigation into a complaint by ASCTA Board Chairman, Roy Hall Jr on allegations that a Bluesky Communications promotion for its customers — using text messages to enter into competitions and win monetary and other valuable prizes — is gambling. Bluesky CEO Aoe’e Adolfo Montenegro denies their promotion actions do not comply with local law.
According to AG Talauega Eleasalo Ale, they have received the complaint and Assistant AG Asaua Fuimaono ASG’s Consumer Protector has been assigned to investigate the matter.
According to communications between the Chair and the AG’s office, leaked to Samoa News, Hall has been making inquiries into this matter since September 2013 with the hope the AG’s office will be able to issue warnings and cease and desist orders to stop Bluesky from continuing to actively operate gambling promotions without criminal consequences.
As an example, he noted that earlier in the year there were promotions related to the U.S. College Basketball series in the U.S. “where the more you text, the better your chances are to win monetary and other valuable prizes.”
The Chair also pointed out that he’s further displeased with Bluesky hosting a singing contest aired by government owned KVZK-TV — where the only way to vote is by text on a “Bluesky” phone.
“ASTCA cell phones and land lines are not able to participate because Bluesky has not allowed a separate method for residents with ASTCA cell phones or land lines to call or text a vote. Bluesky earns money on every text that is sent in and all at the operational expense of the Am. Samoa Government, use of ASG department staff and KVZK-TV.
“This creates a commercial activity that generates revenue to Bluesky only, and negates non-Bluesky customers from participating in this island wide competition.” Hall said he presented a complaint to the government last year and nothing was done, however he hopes some action can be taken to allow all residents of American Samoa, including Manu’a, to participate in this contest.
He asked the AG’s office to “initiate a full investigation on the gambling issue and the misuse of government assets and personnel by Bluesky.”
The Chairman in his correspondence to the AG’s office stated the definition of gambling is the act of risking something of value, esp. money, for a chance to win a prize and the local gambling statute also provides a definition:
A person commits the crime of gambling if he engages in gambling in any form with cards, dice, or other implements or devices of any kind, where anything of value is wagered upon the outcome, or who keeps any establishment, place, equipment, or apparatus for gambling, or any agents or employees for that purpose, or who knowingly lets any establishment, structure, place, equipment, or apparatus be used for gambling.
Gambling is a class A misdemeanor.
Bluesky CEO, Aoe'e Adolfo Montenegro responded to Samoa News queries on the matter stating that Bluesky Communications takes the laws of American Samoa and the United States very seriously. “We are careful to ensure that our actions comply with those laws,” he wrote.
“Prior to beginning our promotions, which are so popular with our customers, we consulted with our attorneys,” said Aoe’e. The Bluesky CEO further states that Bluesky finds it regrettable that the Chairman of ASTCA has raised these complaints at the same time that ASTCA continues to refuse to comply with federal and local laws regarding telecommunication interconnection agreements that are designed to benefit the people of American Samoa.”
Bluesky will continue to abide by the spirit and letter of the laws of American Samoa and the United States, and Bluesky urges ASTCA to begin to do the same, said Montenegro.
BLUESKY’S OPT-OUT OPTION REGARDING TEXT MESSAGES
In a separate matter, Bluesky customers, who do not want to receive daily promotions or announcements via text messages on their Bluesky cell phone can opt-out in a simple, one-step process, while Bluesky will continue to send text messages to its customers who are interested in the services being promoted.
This is according to Lewis Wolman, Bluesky’s Country Manager in response to Samoa News queries.
Cell phone users who do not want to get text messages from Bluesky can call to have them stopped, as of Monday, Apr. 8, 2014, said Wolman, adding that Bluesky offers an op-out option.
“Today (Monday), customers can request to opt out by calling our call center (611 from their Bluesky phone or 699-2759, ext 0). He further stated that by the end of April the opt-out will be done using text messages. “By the end of April, we will implement a new customer tool that will allow customers to opt out on their own (via a text message).
Earlier this month government officials, who did not wish to be named, raised concerns over daily text messages sent by Bluesky, inviting their customers to enter competitions and promotions, and “at one time, there were games sent via text messages.”
One official said the frequency of the messages is up to three or four a day, with no option within the messages for customers to choose to stop receiving them.