We Buy Any Car, over-50s financial services provider Saga and retailer Sports Direct have between them been ordered to pay £495,000 for sending unsolicited and “intrusive” messages to consumers.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) ordered the fines after the well-known companies were found to have sent more than 354 million nuisance emails and text messages. None of the companies had permission from people to send them marketing messages, which is against the law.
We Buy Any Car was fined £200,000 for sending more than 191 million emails and 3.6 million nuisance texts. Saga Services and Saga Personal Finance were fined £150,000 and £75,000 respectively for instigating more than 157 million emails between them, while Sports Direct was fined £70,000 for sending 2.5 million emails.
”Getting a ping on your phone or constant unwanted messages on your laptop from a company you don’t want to hear from is frustrating and intrusive,” said Andy Curry, head of investigations at the ICO.
“These companies should have known better. Today’s fines show the ICO will tackle unsolicited marketing, irrespective of whether the messages have been orchestrated by a small business or organisation, or a leading household name. The law remains the same and we hope today’s action sends out a deterrent message that members of the public must have their choices and privacy respected.
“Companies that want to send direct marketing messages must first have people’s consent. And people must understand what they are consenting to when they hand over their personal information. The same rules apply even when companies use third parties to send messages on their behalf.”
We Buy any Car sent emails to people who had requested an online valuation of their vehicles.
The Information Commissioner found that the initial emails sent after a valuation request were made within the law, but that subsequent emails which also promoted the We Buy Any Car service were unlawful because they contained marketing material, and were sent without consent. The messages were sent between April 2019 and April 2020.
Saga Services Ltd (SSL) and Saga Personal Finance (SPF) instigated emails using partner companies and their affiliates. These companies used data lists of people who had not given permission to be contacted.
SSL instigated more than 128 million emails between November 2018 and May 2019 and SPF more than 28 million over the same period. Both companies have been issued with Enforcement Notices ordering them to stop any illegal direct marketing within 30 days or face court action.
Sports Direct sent 2.5 million emails as part of a re-engagement campaign between December 2019 and February 2020 with people they had not contacted for some time. They were unable to show any evidence of consent to contact the recipients.
The ICO has issued 17 fines totalling more than £1.7 million so far this year for breaches of direct marketing laws.
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