Just weeks ago two companies, Flybe & Honda Motor Europe Ltd, were subject to total of £83,000 in ICO fines. They were found to have illegally emailed hundreds of thousands of consumers, asking them to update their marketing preferences.
In the case of Exeter based airline company Flybe, they sent 3.3 million emails to consumers who specifically asked not to be contacted by email. The email asked them to check and update their details and marketing preferences. While the idea behind this is understandable, Flybe may have wanted to solidify their opt-ins and opt-outs ahead of the GDPR – perhaps giving consumers the chance to opt back in. The execution was poor and broke the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR). The ICO fines that were issued to Flybe amounted to £70,000.
In a separate investigation, the ICO found that Honda Motor Europe Ltd had sent almost 290,000 emails in a similar breach of the PECR regulations. Much like with Flybe, Honda asked customers to clarify there details and preferences to future marketing. Honda orignally tried to argue these were not marketing emails, but in fact customer service emails aimed at help Honda comply with future data protection laws.
Honda could not provide any evidence of the customers wanting to be contacted in this way leading to ICO fines amounting to £130,000. Steve Eckersly, ICO head of enforcement, said that “Sending emails to determine whether people want to receive marketing without the right consent, is still marketing and it is against the law”.
Businesses must understand they can’t break one law to get ready for another.
Steve Eckersly, ICO Head of Enforcement