ICO fines bank and ad firm £125,000 for spamming customers


The UK data watchdog has fined companies a collected 125,000 for spamming their customers with texts and emails.

Vanquis Bank has been fined 75,000 for spamming its customers with unsolicited emails and mobile phone text messages promoting its credit cards, while ad and web development firm Xerpla was given a penalty of 50,000 for sending out 1.26 million spam emails promoting a wide range of products.

"There are rules in place to protect people from the irritation, and in some cases anxiety and distress, spam texts and emails cause," said head of enforcement at the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), Steve Eckersley. "People need to be properly informed about what they are consenting to. Telling them their details could be passed to similar organisations' or selected third parties' cannot be relied upon as specific consent."

The ICO revealed Vanquis Bank had sent 870,849 spam text messages and 620,000 spam emails in its credit card campaign, breaking the law by not receiving the correct consent from customers before the mass mailout. Although it did seek permission from people signing up to the marketing, it used "non-specific" wording in its disclaimer such as "trusted parties" and "carefully selected third parties."

Xerpla sent out emails to people promoting products from dog food and wine, to boilers on behalf of other firms. Although the company did ask people to opt in to mailouts when they signed up to the company's www.yousave.co.uk and www.headsyouwin.co.uk websites, the ICO ruled the privacy policy was not clear enough.

"People were so exasperated by these messages that they complained to us. That sparked two ICO investigations and enabled us to take action and hold the firms behind this nuisance to account," Eckersley added.

"These firms should have taken responsibility for ensuring they had obtained clear and specific consent for the sending of the messages. They didn't and that is unacceptable. I would encourage anyone troubled by a spam email or text to report it via the ICO's website."

Clare Hopping
Freelance writer

Clare is the founder of Blue Cactus Digital, a digital marketing company that helps ethical and sustainability-focused businesses grow their customer base.

Prior to becoming a marketer, Clare was a journalist, working at a range of mobile device-focused outlets including Know Your Mobile before moving into freelance life.

As a freelance writer, she drew on her expertise in mobility to write features and guides for ITPro, as well as regularly writing news stories on a wide range of topics.