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ASA UK Slaps Virgin Media for Sending Unwanted SPAM Email to a Customer

Posted: 28th Jul, 2010 By: MarkJ
asa uk virgin media spam emailThe UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld an interesting complaint against Virgin Media by one of its customers, whom accused the quad-play broadband ISP, TV, mobile and phone provider of sending him unwanted marketing communications by e-mail (SPAM).

The complainant challenged whether the ad breached the CAP code, because he had previously asked Virgin Media not to send him marketing communications by e-mail. It's a situation that many others have probably experienced with different companies, not only ISPs, such as when you check the box not to receive promotional emails and yet they eventually send them anyway.

Virgin's Response

Virgin said the e-mail was sent to announce that Virgin Mobile had become part of the Virgin Media group, because customers might want to opt in to receiving marketing communications once they heard that news. They said the e-mail was not a marketing communication and contained none of the calls to action that were characteristic of such. They needed to make the announcement to customers who may not have been aware of press announcements and would not have been notified via marketing communications; Virgin said they were entitled, under the Data Protection Act, to contact customers in infrequent situations where there had been business developments to ensure their data remained up-to-date and accurate.

Assessment

- Upheld


The ASA noted Virgins argument that the e-mail was not a marketing communication but was an update to customers who might otherwise not have been aware of the change that had taken place. Because, however, it did not include only information about the change but included prize incentives and text such as "What great stuff could you be missing out on?", " ... you can get your hands on even more exclusive deals" and "As a thank you, youll be entered into our prize draw to win a free HTC HD2* phone ... ", we considered the e-mail was a marketing communication. We noted Virgin did not have the complainants consent to send him marketing communications by e-mail. We therefore concluded that Virgins database practice breached the Code.

The ad breached CAP Code clauses 43.9 and 43.13c (Database practice).

The ASA warned Virgin Media that its advert should not appear again in its current form and to stop sending unwanted marketing communications by e-mail to consumers who had asked not to receive them. Sadly a slap on the wrist is unlikely to stop this kind of activity but it might help to remind some businesses that those who opt-out of receiving marketing communication would like it to stay that way.
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