ICO fines MoneySuperMarket £80k for spamming customers

Price comparison site sends 7.1 million emails to customers who'd opted out

Money

MoneySuperMarket has been slapped with an 80,000 fine for sending out millions of emails to customers who had previously opted out from being contacted.

The price comparison site was found to have sent 7.1 million emails to customers over the course of just 10 days, outlining changes to their terms of service, despite the fact that those customers had chosen not to receive email communication.

MoneySuperMarket sent the emails between 30 November and 10 December 2016, of which almost 6.8 million were successfully received by customers. Although it appeared to be in the guise of a terms of service change, UK data watchdog the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) believed this was a misguided attempt to try and persuade users to sign up for marketing emails.

Part of the email included a section labelled "Preference Centre Update", which stated: "We hold an e-mail address for you which means we could be sending you personalised news, products and promotions. You've told us in the past you prefer not to receive these. If you'd like to reconsider, simply click the following link to start receiving our emails."

The ICO chastised the company for its actions, with head of enforcement Steve Eckersley describing the emails as "unacceptable" and a "circumvention of the rules".

"Organisations can't get around the law by sending direct marketing dressed up as legitimate updates," said Eckersley. "When people opt out of direct marketing, organisations must stop sending it, no questions asked, until such time as the consumer gives their consent. They don't get a chance to persuade people to change their minds."

"We will continue to take action against companies that choose to ignore the rules," he added.

A MoneySuperMarket spokesperson told IT Pro: "At MoneySuperMarket, we take the protection of our customers' data and privacy very seriously. We apologise unreservedly to the customers affected by this isolated incident and we have put measures in place to ensure it doesn't happen again."

The ICO also fined supermarket chain Morrisons 10,500 in June after the company sent 130,671 emails to customers holding a store card who had previously opted out of communication. The ICO said at the time that Morrisons had "ignored their decision", even though customers had explicitly told the company they did not want marketing emails.

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