Information Commissioner’s Office issues a 70,000 pound fine to Parklife Weekender for sending unsolicited marketing text messages

December 8, 2014 |

Privacy professionals are waiting patiently to see how the Privacy Commissioner proposes to exercise his new found powers.  And patience is the watchword.  After 6 months he has issued a Regulatory Action Policy which, as the release notes, explains the powers available to the Commissioner.  Chapters 1,3,4,7, 8 and 9 of the Guide to the privacy regulatory action is in the consultation process.  Whether the final version will actually result in a pick up in the otherwise apparently laconic regulation of what is still a fairly patchy, if not poor, level of compliance with the Privacy Act is for the future.  What is less in doubt is the Information Commissioner’s quite active regulation and preparedness to take action for breaches.  As has been seen in its recent fine on a festival organiser in ICO issues £70,000 fine to festival organisers for unsolicited texts.

The media release provides:

The company behind Manchester’s annual festival, the Parklife Weekender has been fined £70,000 after sending unsolicited marketing text messages.

The text was sent to 70,000 people who had bought tickets to last year’s event, and appeared on the recipients’ mobile phone to have been sent by “Mum”. It read:

“Some of the Parklife after parties have already sold out. If your (sic) going, make sure your (sic) home for breakfast! Xxx www.afterlifemcr.com”.

Many of the 76 people who complained about the message which was sent three weeks before the 2014 festival, suffered substantial distress as a result of the marketing campaign.

One complainant said that their mother had recently passed away and they still had her number saved in the contacts, so to receive a text was extremely distressing – they described the message as “unprofessional and disgusting”.

Another person reported that they had recently lost their mum and were shocked when ‘Mum’ flashed up as a notification on the mobile screen. They felt so strongly about the situation they sold the tickets and refused to attend the festival.

Complaints were made to the company, Parklife Manchester Ltd, the Information Commissioner’s Office and the mobile network operator’s Spam Reporting Service.

The ICO issued the fine to the company for breaching regulations around the fact that the identity of the person behind the text was disguised or concealed.

Head of ICO Enforcement, Steve Eckersley said:

“This was a poorly thought out piece of marketing that didn’t appear to even try to follow the rules or consider the impact that their actions would have on the privacy of individuals. 

“It made some people very upset in an attempt to sell tickets to a club night, and that is not acceptable. We would expect a company dealing with the details of as many customers as this to have a much better understanding of the law around marketing text messages.

“The fine sends a clear message that using this type of marketing is unacceptable. Companies need to think about their responsibilities, the law and the consequences not only for their customers but to the general public before they introduce and act on any type of marketing ideas.”

Parklife did not initially take the complaints seriously, sending the following tweet:

”So this is what it feels like to be a jar of Marmite #LoveItOrHateIt”.

The company subsequently issued a public statement apologising for any distress caused and have cooperated fully with the Commissioner’s investigation.

The Information Commissioner has published detailed guidance for companies carrying out marketing explaining their legal requirements under Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR). This guidance explains the circumstances under which organisations are able to carry out marketing over the phone, by text, by email, by post or by fax. 

 

One Response to “Information Commissioner’s Office issues a 70,000 pound fine to Parklife Weekender for sending unsolicited marketing text messages”

  1. Information Commissioner’s Office issues a 70,000 pound fine to Parklife Weekender for sending unsolicited marketing text messages | Australian Law Blogs

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