EE fined £100,000 for spamming customers

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The Information Commissioners Office (ICO) has today imposed a £100,000 fine on BT-owned mobile operator EE after the company sent over 2.5 million direct marketing messages (texts) to its customers during early 2019, without gaining their consent to do so.

The messages encouraged customers to access and use the “My EE” app in order to manage their account and also to upgrade their phone, while a second batch of messages was sent afterwards to customers who had not engaged with the first.

Overall 16.6 million messages were sent but 2.72 million of the recipients had previously opted-out of receiving marketing messages (not all of these texts were received, hence why the final total is 2.5m).

In response EE claimed that such messages were exempt from the marketing rules because they were merely “service messages,” although the ICO “found the messages contained direct marketing and that the company sent them deliberately, although acknowledges that EE did not deliberately set out to breach electronic marketing laws.”

Under the rules marketing messages can be only sent to existing customers if they have given their consent and if they are given a simple way to opt-out of marketing when their details are first collected and in every message sent. People have a right to opt out of receiving marketing at any time, at which point it’s the organisation’s responsibility to stop sending them.

Andy White, ICO Director of Investigations, said:

“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.

EE Limited were aware of the law and should have known that they needed customers’ consent to send them in line with the direct marketing rules. Companies should be aware that texts and emails providing service information which also include a marketing or promotional element must comply with the relevant legislation or could face a fine up to £500,000.”