The Information Commissioner has fined London-based marketing company, Boost Finance Ltd (BFL), a company responsible for millions of nuisance emails about pre-paid funeral plans.

Trading as findmeafuneralplan.com, BFL was behind 4,396,780 emails that were sent from January to September 2017.  The emails were sent to people who had subscribed to websites operated by BFL’s affiliates, but who had not given their consent to receive them.

The ICO investigation found that in all but one of the websites, it was not made obvious who the emails were from – although they did make generic mention of prepaid funeral plan providers in some cases.

The majority of the websites did not provide subscribers with the opportunity to opt out of third party marketing.

Andy Curry, ICO Enforcement Group Manager, said:

“Companies seeking to use email marketing must make sure they follow the law. People would particularly expect this to be so when the subject may be perceived as sensitive, as in this case.

“Boost Finance relied heavily on their affiliates to deliver millions of unwanted messages to members of the public, and also ensure compliance with the law. However, it was Boost Finance’s responsibility to ensure they had valid consent to send the emails. Businesses should send marketing messages in compliance with the law or face potential enforcement action by the ICO.”

The law states that organisations must have consent to send such emails.  That consent must be freely given, specific and informed and involve a positive indication – such as ticking a box.

The investigation found that BFL relied upon inadequate and misleading methods to collect personal data to obtain consent and that consent was not sufficiently informed and therefore breached the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR).

Consent is not informed if people do not understand what they are consenting to. Organisations should always ensure that the language they use is therefore clear, easy to understand and not hidden away in a privacy policy or small print.

 

 

Notes to Editors

  1. The Information Commissioner’s Office upholds information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.
  2. The ICO has specific responsibilities set out in the Data Protection Act 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the Freedom of Information Act 2000, Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003.
  3. The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) give people specific privacy rights in relation to electronic communications. There are specific rules on:

•   marketing calls, emails, texts and faxes;

  • cookies (and similar technologies);
  • keeping communications services secure; and
  • customer privacy as regards traffic and location data, itemised billing, line identification, and directory listings.

We aim to help organisations comply with PECR and promote good practice by offering advice and guidance. We will take enforcement action against organisations that persistently ignore their obligations.

  1. The ICO has the power under PECR to impose a monetary penalty on a data controller of up to £500,000.
  2. Civil Monetary Penalties (CMPs) are subject to a right of appeal to the (First-tier Tribunal) General Regulatory Chamber against the imposition of the monetary penalty and/or the amount of the penalty specified in the monetary penalty notice.
  3. Any monetary penalty is paid into the Treasury’s Consolidated Fund and is not kept by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
  4. To report a concern to the ICO, visit ico.org.uk/concerns.