We Buy Any Car has been fined £200,000 for sending 191.4m unsolicited marketing emails and 3.6m marketing SMS messages.
In total, 26 further complaints about SMS messages were received, 12 about emails on top of four directly made to the commissioners online reporting tool over 12 months.
The regulations that that ‘a person shall neither transmit, nor instigate the transmission of, unsolicited communications for the purposes of direct marketing by means of electronic mail unless the recipient of the electronic mail has previously notified the sender that he consents for the time being to such communications being sent by, or at the instigation of, the sender’.
Email can be used for direct marketing ‘if a business has obtained the contact details through a sale or negotiation’, it’s ‘in respect of that person’s similar products or services only’, or the person has been given a simple way to refuse this contact and didn’t.
The commissioner found that of the 205.5m messages delivered, only 14.1m were solicited by customers who had requested a valuation.
In regards to the SMS messages sent, she found that customers were not given a simple way to opt out when they requested a valuation.
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.
‘The law remains the same and we hope today’s action sends out a deterrent message that members of the public must have their choices and privacy respected
‘Companies that want to send direct marketing messages must first have people’s consent. And people must understand what they are consenting to when they hand over their personal information. The same rules apply even when companies use third parties to send messages on their behalf.’
The ICO has said that if We Buy Any Car pay the fine before October 11 it will reduce the penalty by 20 per cent to £160,000.