A pensions company based in Sevenoaks in Kent has become the latest firm to be fined by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) for engaging in illegal marketing practices. The data protection regulator says that the firm was responsible for “a serious contravention of Regulation 22 of the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003.”

The ICO says that the firm was responsible for the sending of 1,942,010 unsolicited emails promoting its services. These emails were sent over a 12-month period commencing on October 31 2016.

The firm used the services of a marketing agent, who in turn made use of third party email providers to carry out hosted marketing campaigns that advertised the services of the pensions firm.

The email providers obtained their consent via various consumer websites, which meant that the recipients of the pension firm’s marketing emails had no previous relationship with the pension company. At no time did the terms and conditions and privacy policies of these websites name the pensions firm as one from which consumers might receive marketing communications.

Under Article 22, email marketing communications can only be sent to people who have given explicit advance consent to receiving them, and this requirement still applies if a firm uses a third party to conduct marketing on its behalf. The wording the ICO uses is that this consent must be “freely given, specific and informed, and involve a positive indication signifying the individual’s agreement. The law also says that consent will not be valid if the consent statements refer generically to unspecified “third parties”, “partners” etc.

There is a partial exemption from the advance consent requirement where all of the following apply:

  1. The firm has obtained the individual’s contact details during the process of a sale, or negotiations regarding a possible sale
  2. The marketing being carried out by the firm concerns similar products and/or services to the product/service which was being offered in point 1
  3. The recipient was provided with a simple means of opting out of marketing communications when their contact details were initially collected
  4. The recipient did not exercise their opt out right in point 3

The firm co-operated with the ICO investigation and the fine will be reduced to £32,000 if it pays before April 23 and does not exercise its right of appeal to the First-Tier Tribunal (Information Rights).

Andy White, Director of Investigations and Intelligence at the ICO said:

“Spam email uses people’s personal data unlawfully, filling up their inboxes and promoting products and services which they don’t necessarily want.

“We acknowledge that [name of firm] took steps to check that their marketing activity was within the law but received misleading advice. However, ultimately, they are responsible for ensuring they comply with the law and they were in breach of it.

“The ICO is here to provide businesses with guidance about electronic marketing and data protection, free of charge. The company could have contacted us and avoided this fine.”

The information shown in this article was correct at the time of publication. Articles are not routinely reviewed and as such are not updated. Please be aware the facts, circumstances or legal position may change after publication of the article