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Thursday, September 23, 2021

Firms fined over ‘frustrating’ nuisance messages


We Buy Any Car, Saga and Sports Direct have been fined for sending “frustrating” nuisance messages, the UK data watchdog has said.

For sending hundreds of millions of emails and texts, the three companies were fined a total of £495,000.

According to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), none of the companies had obtained permission to send the marketing.

The obnoxious messages were all sent out before April 2020, according to the watchdog.

“Getting a ping on your phone or constant unwanted messages on your laptop from a company you don’t want to hear from is frustrating and intrusive,” said Andy Curry, head of investigations at the ICO.

“These businesses should’ve known better.”


Historic contravention

We Buy Any Car was fined £200,000 for sending over 191 million emails to people who requested an online valuation of their car in the year beginning April 2019.

The first emails sent by We Buy Any Car were legal, according to the ICO, but subsequent marketing emails were sent without consent. In addition, the company sent 36 million annoying texts.

Two Saga companies, which provide services such as insurance and vacations to people over the age of 50, were fined a total of £225,000. Between November 2018 and May 2019, the companies hired third-party companies to send over 156 million emails.

The third-party firms used lists of people who had not given permission for the companies to contact them.

“This was a historic violation of email marketing regulations in relation to activity undertaken with two third-party providers of Saga Personal Finance and Saga Services,” the firm’s spokesperson said.

“As a result, we decided to stop using third-party email marketing services, and we worked closely with the ICO throughout their investigation. We are confident in the effectiveness of our privacy and marketing policies.”

Sports Direct was fined £70,000 after sending 2.5 million emails to customers it had not contacted in a long time. The company was unable to demonstrate that it had obtained permission to do so.

We Buy Any Car and Sports Direct have both been contacted for comment.

The ICO has been charged with a post-Brexit shake up of data rules, including getting rid of cookie pop-ups.

Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden has said he favours “light touch” data regulation.

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