Department store chain John Lewis has been ordered to pay damages after being successfully prosecuted over the dissemination of unsolicited spam emails.
According to a report by Sky News, the case, brought against the retailer by Sky News producer Roddy Mansfield, could have significant repercussions for online marketers with a wave of similar privacy rulings now expected.
Existing EU legislation bans businesses from promoting their wares through marketing emails unless it can be proven that the recipient consented to them or was a customer – with John Lewis unable to satisfy either requirement.
Mansfield was automatically opted-in to the promotional emails after registering his email address on the John Lewis website, alongside a pre-ticked consent box. As Mansfield was unaware that he had been opted-in the court ruled in his favour however.
Mansfield said: “John Lewis argued that because I had not opted-out of receiving their emails, I had automatically opted-in.
"But an opportunity to opt-out that is not taken is simply that. It does not convert to automatic consent under the law and companies risk enforcement action if they use pre-ticked boxes.
“John Lewis' lawyers then argued that because I browsed their website I had "negotiated" with them for a sale and a business relationship existed between us which would allow them to email me. The judge threw that out too."
In a statement John Lewis said: “Mr Mansfield voluntarily gave us his email address, set up an account online and chose not to opt-out of marketing communications when that option was available to him.
"We listen carefully to what our customers tell us about how and when we communicate with them and endeavour to do so in a manner that is convenient to them. We're sorry Mr Mansfield was inconvenienced by our emails."