Three leading UK brands fined £495,000 by ICO

Sports Direct, We Buy Any Car, and Saga and have been fined a total of £495,000 by the Information Commissioner's Office for sending more than 354 million “nuisance messages”.

Sports Direct was fined £70,000 for sending 2.5 million emails.

We Buy Any Car was fined £200,000 for sending more than 191 million emails. The firm also sent 3.6 million nuisance texts.

Saga Services and Saga Personal Finance were fined £150,000 and £75,000, respectively, for instigating more than 157 million emails between them.

The ICO said none of the companies had permission from people to send them marketing emails or texts.

Andy Curry, ICO head of investigations, said: “Getting a ping on your phone or constant unwanted messages on your laptop from a company you don’t want to hear from is frustrating and intrusive.

“These companies should have known better. Today’s fines show the ICO will tackle unsolicited marketing, irrespective of whether the messages have been orchestrated by a small business or organisation, or a leading household name.

“This action sends out a deterrent message that members of the public must have their choices and privacy respected,” Curry said.

The ICO’s investigations into the companies were sparked by complaints from the public. It is against the law for companies to send consumers messages without their permission.

We Buy Any Car sent emails to people who had requested an online valuation of their vehicles.

The ICO found that the initial emails sent after a valuation request were made within the law, but that subsequent emails which also promoted the We Buy Any Car service were unlawful because they contained marketing as well as being sent without consent.

Both Saga Services and Saga Personal Finance instigated emails using partner companies and their affiliates. These companies used data lists of people who had not given the companies permission to contact them.

The companies say they relied on indirect consent, however the laws around electronic messages are stricter, said the ICO, as they are more intrusive and this form of consent is not adequate.

Sports Direct sent 2.5 million emails as part of a “re-engagement campaign” with people they had not contacted for some time. The company was unable to show any evidence of consent to contact the recipients.

The ICO has issued 17 fines totalling more than £1.7 million so far this year for breaches of direct marketing laws.

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