The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), the Uk’s data protection watchdog, has fined three companies a total of £495,000 for sending more than 354 million unwanted messages to consumers.
In the UK it is against the law to send unwarranted marketing emails or text messages, and We Buy Any Car, Saga and Sports Direct did just that.
Andy Curry, ICO head of investigations, said: “Companies that want to send direct marketing messages must first have people’s consent. And people must understand what they are consenting to when they hand over their personal information. The same rules apply even when companies use third parties to send messages on their behalf.”
We Buy Any Car sent advertisement emails to customers who had initially requested an online valuation of their vehicles.
While the ICO found that the initial emails sent to these people were not unlawful, the subsequent emails which promoted the company’s other services were illegal as it was related to marketing, and it did not receive any consent to send them.
In the timespan of a year, We Buy Any Car sent more than 191 million emails and 3.6 million text messages. The company was fined a total of £200,000.
Saga (Saga Services Ltd and Saga Personal Finance) used the data lists from partner companies and their affiliates.
Once again, none of these people had previously given permission to be contacted by the company. Saga Services Ltd sent more than 128 million emails in about six months and was fined £150,000. Saga Personal Finance sent more than 28 million emails over the same time span and was fined £75,000.
As a part of a re-engagement campaign, Sports Direct sent 2.5 million emails over the span of two months.
The recipients of these emails had not been previously contacted by Sports Direct for some time.
The company was unable to prove that anyone had previously consented to receive these emails. Sports Direct was fined £70,000.
Some of these companies cited relying on indirect consent. However, the law around emails states this form of consent is not efficient.
Curry said: “These companies should have known better. Today’s fines show the ICO will tackle unsolicited marketing, irrespective of whether the messages have been orchestrated by a small business or organisation, or a leading household name. The law remains the same and we hope today’s action sends out a deterrent message that members of the public must have their choices and privacy respected.”