Virgin Media in dock over ‘underhand’ email campaign

virgin media 11Virgin Media has been accused of using underhand – and potentially unlawful – tactics in an attempt to get customers who have opted out of marketing communications to change their minds and sign up again through a major email campaign.

One opted-out customer has contacted Decision Marketing to report they had received what appears to be a mass email under the subject line “News about your Virgin Media package”.

The missive, headlined “A little good news”, stated: “We want to let you know that we won’t be raising your price this year. This means the price you pay for your current package right now will stay the same in 2020.”

However, it then added: “We’d like to stay in touch about all the great Virgin Media stuff we have on offer for you. You have currently said no to receiving marketing messages from us, which means we are not able to keep you up to date with our latest TV, broadband, phone and mobile news, competitions, product and bundle offers via online, email, post, SMS, phone.

“You can change your preferences by simply registering or signing in to virginmedia.com/optin. Click ‘My Profile’, then ‘My Preferences’.”

According to the Privacy & Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR), asking customers to consent to future marketing messages when that they have already opted out of is against the law.

Flybe, Honda, Morrisons, BT and Royal Mail have all been caught with their trousers down – and whacked with fines – for contacting customers who were off limits, under the guise of service messages.

When contacted, the ICO refused to confirm whether the email constituted a breach until an official complaint was filed – this has now been lodged – but DAMM Solutions Group co-founder Andy Chesterman said: “I’d say they’ve merged a service message (pricing information) with the opportunity to persuade you to change your marketing preferences. It’s certainly dodgy territory in my mind.”

SMS Works director Henry Cazalet added: “Feels very much like a breach to me. They’ve tried to disguise their ‘please opt back in’ marketing message as an account management notification, i.e there’ll be no price rise. Thin ice in my opinion…”

The Virgin Media customer told Decision Marketing: “This appears a very underhand – and even illegal – method to get customers who have opted out to change their minds. While I’m sure there are far more serious data protection breaches going on, this email really got my hackles up. When you say no to marketing, you mean no, not maybe. It’s black and white. End of.”

Virgin Media has yet to comment on the email campaign.

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