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ICO Fines UK Mobile Operator EE £100k for SPAMMING Customers

Monday, June 24th, 2019 (11:39 am) - Score 3,188
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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, albeit 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.”

The full ruling can be read here and we note that it follows almost exactly a year after parent broadband operator, BT, was fined £77,000 for unlawfully sending 4,930,141 emails (here).

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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4 Responses
  1. Avatar Michael V

    I read the first sentence then came to comment… I have a Vodafone account that very few have the number for & I’ve been getting texts from them even after replying stop. They deserve to be fined.

  2. Avatar Kyle

    One pound per message seems a sufficient number, to dissuade a blatant disregard for marketing preferences. £100k to EE is merely pocket money and sends no message whatsoever, to them or others committing the same activity.

  3. Avatar dragoneast

    As an EE customer, I hope that the amount of extra business generated exceeded the amount of the fine; for the sake of us customers, who meet the bill. One of the first things I found is that my phone has a delete facility for stuff I don’t want. I’m not frightened to use it. It’s actually my most commonly used button. EE aren’t the worst offender. Everyone else is.

    • Avatar spurple

      The storage space used by the text message is inconsequential and isn’t the point.

      Having only recently answered EE’s one-a-day marketing call trying to sell me an additional line, I’m glad they got fined for breaking the rules.

      In my case, they could probably find a line somewhere that says I opted into receiving these phone calls, but as you may know whether you chose to accept it or not, they design their systems so that you’re always getting opted in if you make any change and you have to remember to opt out every single time. Practically, it means nearly everyone is opted in whether or not they really want to. I say this, having just opted out of “personalized advertising” on Sky TV for the umpteenth time for a similar reason.

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