Royal Mail might be licking its lips in anticipation of a boost in direct mail volumes thanks to the ICO’s GDPR legitimate interests guidance, but it has found itself on the wrong side of the regulator this week after breaking the current law by sending out more than 300,000 emails to customers without permission to do so.
On two dates in July 2017, the company sent emails to customers outlining a price drop for parcels, however, 327,014 of them had already opted out of receiving direct marketing.
The ICO launched an investigation after a member of the public rifled off a complaint to the regulator, insisting they had opted out of all Royal Mail marketing emails.
In response to the ICO probe, Royal Mail claimed the emails were a service rather than marketing; informing customers of a price drop.
But the regulator dismissed this argument, ruling that the emails constituted marketing and not simply a service message, therefore breaching regulation 22 of the Privacy & Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR).
Even so, the ICO has shown leniency; Royal Mail was fined just £12,000.
Last year, the regulator fined Morrisons £80,000 for a similar misdemeanor, although it sent out over 7 million unlawful emails.
ICO head of enforcement Steve Eckersley said: “Royal Mail did not follow the law on direct marketing when it sent such a huge volume of emails, because the recipients had already clearly expressed they did not want to receive them.
“These rules are there for a reason – to protect people from the irritation and, on occasions, distress nuisance emails cause. I hope this sends the message that we will take action against companies who flout them.”
In a separate development, it has been reported that Royal Mail boss Moya Greene Royal Mail chief executive Moya Greene could be close to stepping down.
According to Sky News, Rico Back, the CEO of Royal Mail parcels delivery arm General Logistics Systems (GLS), could replace Greene as early as this year.
A source close to the board suggested that an announcement could be made before Royal Mail reports its full-year results on May 17. Greene has held her post at Royal Mail since 2010.
ICO finally publishes GDPR legitimate interest guidance
Direct mail industry set for boom time under GDPR
Moneysupermarket hit in pocket over consent breach
GDPR consent updates spark chilling warning to brands
Morrisons gets off lightly over deliberate email breach