JD Sports faces ICO red card over potential PECR breach

jd new2JD Sports is under investigation by the Information Commissioner’s Office over a potential PECR infringement, after being monitored by the regulator for non-compliance, with “enforcement action possible”.

The threat comes just weeks after the retail giant brought in former Procter & Gamble, Orange and BBC marketing chief Suzi Williams as a non-executive director to help “strengthen the board”.

Although details of the breach of Privacy & Electronic Communications Regulations have not been disclosed, the firm has been named and shamed on the ICO website as being under investigation. Like most retailers, JD Sports runs an extensive email marketing programme and such schemes have faced greater scrutiny in recent years.

Back in March 2017, as companies started to prepare for GDPR, it emerged that many were contacting customers who had already opted out of marketing under the guise of service messages to get them to opt back in.

Honda and Flybe were the first brands to be fingered by the ICO but since then they have been joined in the “Hall of PECR Shame” by Morrisons, BT, Royal Mail, Amex, We Buy Any Car, Sports Direct, Saga, The Conservative Party, Virgin Media, and the Unite Union. All been battered for contacting customers who were off limits, either by phone or email.

In the case of Virgin Media, just a single complaint by a Decision Marketing reader triggered the investigation and resultant £50,000 penalty.

And while most fines have been relatively small to date, under the Data Reform Bill PECR fines will  be brought in line GDPR, which allows the ICO to issue a penalty of up to £17.5m or 4% of a company’s global turnover.

Even so, JD Sports is unlikely to be hit that hard. It will have been issued with warnings about its conduct and given a chance to demonstrate improvements before any enforcement action is taken.

It is not known whether the appointment of Williams is linked to the issue but she does have 30 years’ experience of running global consumer brands and businesses for blue chip companies.

Williams has also previously worked as chief marketing officer at BT Group where she led the London 2012 Olympic & Paralympic programme, oversaw the launch of BT Sport, and was part of the team which transformed the business.

She is also a non-executive director at Telecom Plus and Zegona Communications.

At the time of her appointment, JD Sports executive chairman Peter Cowgill said: “Suzi brings a significant amount of consumer marketing and management experience to the group. [Her] appointment is a further indication of the progress that is being made to strengthen the board with the appointment of new members with extensive skills, experience and expertise, for the benefit of all stakeholders.”

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