EE has been fined £100,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) for sending customers text messages without consent.
The messages, which were sent to customers in early 2018, had encouraged customers to download and use the ‘My EE’ app – which allows users to manage their account. Texts were also sent to customers offering them the chance to upgrade their mobile device.
Customers who had not engaged with the first round of text messages were contacted once again by the telecoms provider. The ICO confirmed that more than 2.5 million messages were sent to customers in 2018.
During the ICO’s investigation into the messaging campaign, EE told the regulator that the texts were sent as service messages and were therefore not covered by electronic marketing rules.
The ICO ruled that the messages contained direct marketing material and that the company sent them deliberately. The regulator acknowledged that EE did not “deliberately set out to breach electronic marketing laws”, however.
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Andy White, ICO director of investigations, said that EE was “aware of the law and should have known that they needed customers’ consent to send them in line with the direct marketing rules.
“These were marketing messages which promoted the company’s products and services. The direct marketing guidance is clear; if a message that contains customer service information also includes promotional material to buy extra products for services, it is no longer a service message and electronic marketing rules apply.”
Marketing messages can only be sent to an existing customer if they have given their consent, according to the ICO’s guidance on electronic marketing. Customers must also be given a simple method through which to opt out of marketing “when their details are first collected and in every message sent”.
Failure to comply with electronic marketing rules can result in a fine of up to £500,000 – the largest amount the ICO can impose upon a company and/or organisation.