BT has been consigned to the data-driven marketing hall of shame after becoming the latest major brand to have been found flouting the law when it sent nearly 5 million illegal emails to customers, triggering a £77,000 fine for the telecoms giant.
The issue dates back to December 2015, when the company started a marketing campaign to promote three charity initiatives, the BT ‘My Donate’ platform, Giving Tuesday and Stand up to Cancer. Between that date and November 2016 the firm sent out over 4.9 million emails.
However, an Information Commissioner’s Office investigation uncovered the fact that BT only had permission to send these customers service messages; recipients had not given the necessary consent for marketing, making the campaign in breach of regulation 22 of the Privacy & Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR).
During the investigation, BT accepted that emails for Giving Tuesday and Stand up to Cancer were unlawful but disputed the assessment that My Donate emails were direct marketing.
Even though the ICO found that BT had not deliberately broken the rules, the regulator insisted that the firm was sloppy in its approach as it should have known the risks; it also failed to take reasonable steps to prevent them.
ICO head of enforcement Steve Eckersley said: “Organisations have a responsibility to ensure they are acting within the law. Where they do not, the ICO can and will take action. This particular investigation was prompted by a concerned member of the public. We investigated the matter and uncovered the full extent of this activity which shows how important it is for people to report nuisance emails.”
“Regulation 22” offences are all too common, Royal Mail, Moneysupermarket, Morrisons, Flybe and Honda have all been fined for flouting the law in the past 12 months alone.
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