Top brands and their agencies could find themselves being whacked with fines of up to £500,000 in the wake of a new crackdown by the Information Commissioner’s Office on the use of dodgy marketing data.
The move follows the ongoing investigation into the charity sector, which has raised concerns that hundreds of charities could unwittingly be using illegally obtained data to fuel their campaigns.
Although under the Data Protection Act and the Privacy & Electronic Communications Regulations, the onus has always been on any company which buys marketing data to check its legality, so far the regulator has concentrated its focus on the suppliers rather than the end users.
But now the ICO is turning its guns on both brands and their agencies, who, it would appear, are all too often failing to check how the data they are buying in has been sourced. It says it will now target sanctions at those responsible for commissioning data services, even if infringement takes place without their knowledge.
Brands, along with the suppliers involved, will be held jointly responsible, and could face substational fines as well as being named and shamed, according to Dene Walsh, operations and compliance director at Verso Group.
He warns that the ICO also says in disputes over consent, the burden of proof to demonstrate consumer opt in conditions have been met will be on the brand. It will not be up to the consumer or ICO to prove negligence.
Writing in a blog post on the DMA website, Walsh added: “Those who preach good behaviour then take the easiest and cheapest options undermine direct marketing as a whole, and create commercial disadvantage for those that do play to the rules.
“Putting the onus on clients to ensure adherence to compliance is a smart move because it puts pressure on suppliers that have previously shown a casual approach to regulations. Those that lead clients to a visit by the ICO are not going to get on many pitch lists.”
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