The Information Commissioners Office has fined EE £100,000 for sending millions of marketing texts without permission to do so.

Mobile giant EE has been fined £100,000 for sending millions of text messages to customers. The ICO said EE sent more than 2.5 million messages in 2018. The messages asked customers to download an app and upgrade their phones. EE also sent follow up texts to the customers who did not open the first message.

EE told the ICO that the texts were sent as service messages and because of this were no subject to the electronic marketing rules. However, the ICO investigation found that the messages contained direct marketing and that EE had in fact sent them with the purpose to engage customers. Despite this, the ICO acknowledged that EE did not deliberately set out to breach electronic marketing laws.

Electronic marketing communications can only be sent to existing customers who have given consent and if a simple way to opt out of marketing is provided. ICO Director of Investigations, Andy White said: “Theses were marketing messages which promoted the company’s products and services. The direct marketing guidance is clear: If a message that contains customer service information also includes promotional material to buy extra products for services, it is no longer a service message and electronic marketing rules apply. EE Limited were aware of the law and should have known that they needed customers’ consent to send them in line with the direct marketing rules. Companies should be aware that texts and emails providing service information which also include a marketing or promotional element must comply with the relevant legislation or could face a fine up to £500,000.”

EE said it accepted the ICO’s findings and has begun working to improve its processes. A spokesperson said: “We’re committed to ensuring our customers are fully aware of their options throughout the life of their contract, and we apologise to the customers who received these messages.”

What to do if you receive a nuisance call or text.

People who receive nuisance marketing calls, emails and texts is to ask the company to remove their details from their lists, read the small print and be careful about ticking boxes which could give them consent to contact you. People can also report cold calls or texts that either played a recorded voice message or from a real person, to the ICO. The ICO will use the information you provide to investigate and take action against companies responsible.

What is a nuisance call or text?

A nuisance call or cold-call is an unsolicited telephone call or text from a business seeking to attract new customers. Cold Calling is not illegal, however, there are restrictions on how and when a marketing cold-call should be made. The new GDPR regulations along with the ICO’s Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations tighten up these restrictions, and as from 25 May 2018, any organisation involved in cold calling will have to abide by strict guidelines or face hefty fines. The only instance where you can be lawfully cold-called is if you have given consent before being contacted.

In addition, organisations cannot call numbers that are registered with the TPS. The TPS (Telephone Preference Service) is a free service. It is the official opt out register on which you can record your preference not to receive unsolicited sales or marketing calls. It is forbidden for organisations to make telephone contact with anyone registered on the TPS database.

To register with the TPS follow this https://www.tpsonline.org.uk/tps/number_type.html

You can also log a complaint with the ICO here: https://ico.org.uk/make-a-complaint/nuisance-calls-and-messages/

 

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