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Royal Mail fined £12,000 after sending more than 300,000 nuisance emails

Royal Mail Group Ltd has been fined £12,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) after sending more than 300,000 nuisance emails.

On two dates in July 2017, the company sent emails to 327,014 people who had already opted out of receiving direct marketing.

The emails outlined a price drop for parcels, but the company did not have the recipients’ consent to send them, and so broke the law.

The ICO launched an investigation after receiving a complaint from a member of the public, who had received a marketing email from Royal Mail despite having opted out.

ICO Head of Enforcement, Steve Eckersley, said:

“Royal Mail did not follow the law on direct marketing when it sent such a huge volume of emails, because the recipients had already clearly expressed they did not want to receive them.

“These rules are there for a reason - to protect people from the irritation and, on occasions, distress nuisance emails cause. I hope this sends the message that we will take action against companies who flout them.”

During the investigation, Royal Mail claimed the emails were a service rather than marketing; informing customers of a price drop.

The Commissioner found that the emails sent constituted marketing and not simply a service message, therefore breaching regulation 22 of the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR).

Nuisance calls and spam texts and emails can be reported via the ICO’s website or by calling 0303 123 1113 with as much detail as possible. Mobile phone users can also report spam texts by forwarding the message to 7726.

The ICO has published detailed guidance for companies carrying out marketing – explaining their legal requirements under data protection law and the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations. The guidance covers the circumstances in which organisations are able to carry out marketing over the phone, by text, by email, by post or by fax.

 

Notes 

  1. The Information Commissioner’s Office upholds information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.
  2. The ICO has specific responsibilities set out in the Data Protection Act 1998, the Freedom of Information Act 2000, Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003.
  3. The ICO can take action to change the behaviour of organisations and individuals that collect, use and keep personal information. This includes criminal prosecution, non-criminal enforcement and audit. The ICO has the power to impose a monetary penalty on a data controller of up to £500,000.
  4. The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a new law which will apply in the UK from 25 May 2018. The Government has confirmed the UK’s decision to leave the EU will not affect the commencement of the GDPR. The Government is introducing measures related to this and wider data protection reforms in a Data Protection Bill.
  5. The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) sit alongside the Data Protection Act. They give people specific privacy rights in relation to electronic communications. There are specific rules on:
    • marketing calls, emails, texts and faxes;
    • cookies (and similar technologies);
    • keeping communications services secure; and
    • customer privacy as regards traffic and location data, itemised billing, line identification, and directory listings.

      We aim to help organisations comply with PECR and promote good practice by offering advice and guidance. We will take enforcement action against organisations that persistently ignore their obligations.
  6. Civil Monetary Penalties (CMPs) are subject to a right of appeal to the (First-tier Tribunal) General Regulatory Chamber against the imposition of the monetary penalty and/or the amount of the penalty specified in the monetary penalty notice.
  7. Any monetary penalty is paid into the Treasury’s Consolidated Fund and is not kept by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
  8. To report a concern to the ICO telephone our helpline 0303 123 1113 or go to ico.org.uk/concerns.