The UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has bared its teeth and levied steep fines against household brands found guilty of sending unsolicited marketing emails and texts.
The body has today issued £495,000 in fines regarding more than 354m nuisance messages from We Buy Any Car, Saga and Sports Direct.
We Buy Any Car was fined £200,000 for sending 191m emails and 3.6m texts. People who requested online car valuations were bombarded with follow-up marketing emails without consent.
Saga Services Ltd and Saga Personal Finance were fined £150,000 and £75,000 respectively for sending more than 157m emails between them, using data lists of people who had not given marketing consent.
Finally, Sports Direct was fined £70,000 for sending 2.5m emails. It embarked on a re-engagement campaign between December 2019 and February 2020 and could not provide evidence of consent.
The ICO said that none of these companies had permission to send the communications to customers, with each investigation sparked by a complaint from a member of the public.
Andy Curry, ICO head of investigations, 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 organization, 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.”
He reminds marketers that they must have the user’s direct consent if they wish to send marketing messages. “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.”
The body has issued 17 fines totaling more than £1.7m so far this year (2021/22) for breaches of direct marketing laws.
The ICO has a big job ahead, with talks of the UK diverging from GDPR in some way. This was recently welcomed by the Data and Marketing Association (DMA).