The Snap Send Solve app allows users to send photographs and reports of issues such as cracked footpaths, graffiti, abandoned supermarket trolleys, sumped rubbish or damaged infrastructure (eg, a telecommunications cabinet hit by a vehicle) to local councils and other organisations. The idea was that users didn't have to worry about who needed to be notified, as the company would take care of routing the report to the correct organisation according to the location and the type of issue.
According to an interview with founder Danny Gorog the business model was that reports would be sent free of charge to every council in Australia, funded by income from participating companies and organisations.
The problem, according to the ACCC, was that Snap Send Solve suggested consumers could send photos and reports of issues needing to be fixed to any relevant public authority, such as local councils, in Australia or New Zealand, but between November 2018 and August 2019 the company withheld photographs submitted by consumers from councils and authorities who were not paid subscribers.
"We were concerned that Snap Send Solve misled consumers by suggesting local councils would be able to effectively respond to issues reported through its website or app. This may not have been the case because photos submitted were withheld from local councils without paid subscriptions," ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said.
"This may also have created a situation where local councils felt pressured into fully participating in the platform and paying for a subscription."
"Online platforms can provide a useful service by linking consumers with service providers, but platform operators must ensure the information they provide is not misleading," said Rickard.
So even though the service is free to consumers, the ACCC determined that Snap Send Solve had misled them by not delivering some of the reports that neither the consumer nor the relevant council had paid to be delivered.
The ACCC notes that the payment of a penalty specified in an infringement notice is not an admission of a contravention of the Australian Consumer Law.
Gorog told iTWire "Our intention is always to provide an easy and efficient way of notifying local councils, utilities and other authorities of issues that need addressing in the community.
"We acknowledge the decision made by the ACCC to issue an infringement notice. We will continue to improve our offering so that we are fully compliant with the Australia Consumer Law and enable all authorities to deliver the best outcomes for their constituents and customers."
Snap Send Solve won the AIMIA (originally the Australian Interactive Media Industry Association) award for the "best of smartphone - government and non-profit" category in 2014, and was a finalist in the innovation category of the 2016 ANZIAs (Australian and New Zealand Internet Awards).
More recently, the company established arrangements with the Mornington Peninsula Vignerons Association, the Yarra Valley wine industry and Agriculture Victoria to help people report vines growing in homes and public places that could contribute to the spread of Phylloxera; with Wildlife Victoria so people can report sick, injured or orphaned wildlife; and with Tyre Stewardship Australia to assist with the identification of tyres that have been stockpiled or illegally dumped.
The basic service – which includes an unlimited number of reports – is free to all councils and "selected public asset managers". The enterprise service includes more advanced features including the ability to integrate with other systems, and costs between $295 and $1495 a month depending on the number of residents in the council area. Pricing for other organisations is available on request.