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ICO Fines Moneysupermarket £80K for Nuisance Emails

Moneysupermarket.com has been slapped with an £80,000 fine after watchdog the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) found it guilty of sending millions of nuisance emails to customers.

The popular price comparison site sent 7.1 million emails over a 10-day period to update customers with new Terms & Conditions, even though these recipients had opted out of direct marketing, the ICO said.

The firm apparently broke the law by asking its customers to consent to future marketing missives even though they had already opted out.

The key part of the offending email read as follows:

"We hold an e-mail address for you which means we could be sending you personalized news, products and promotions. You've told us in the past you prefer not to receive these. If you'd like to reconsider, simply click the following link to start receiving our e-mails.”

The law in question governing marketing missives is the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR), which sits alongside the Data Protection Act.

ICO head of enforcement, Steve Eckersley, argued that firms can’t get around PECR rules by disguising marketing messages as legitimate updates.

“When people opt out of direct marketing, organizations must stop sending it, no questions asked, until such time as the consumer gives their consent. They don’t get a chance to persuade people to change their minds,” he added.

“Emails sent by companies to consumers under the guise of ‘customer service’, checking or seeking their consent, is a circumvention of the rules and is unacceptable. We will continue to take action against companies that choose to ignore the rules.”

Ashish Koul, president of customer interaction management software firm Acqueon, said the ICO fine highlights a worrying trend among businesses failing to act ethically in their marketing.

“There is no excuse – especially considering the ready availability of technologies that can check hundreds of thousands of ‘Do Not Contact’ (DNC) records in mere seconds,” he argued.

“No customer is going to frequent a business that has been bombarding them with e-mails; especially after they’ve opted out of receiving them. Businesses must ensure compliance in all marketing campaigns; whether telephone, email, SMS, or social media. Businesses must put in place the right systems to avoid incurring further fines and annoying customers.”

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