email marketing preferencesThe Information Commissioner has fined the “aggregator” for sending 7.1M emails to customers who had already opted out of direct marketing emails.

The case is interesting insofar as the emails were sent to the customers as a customer service email updating their terms of service but included a paragraph stating “We hold an e-mail address for you which means we could be sending you personalised news, products and promotions. You’ve told us in the past you prefer not to receive these. If you’d like to reconsider, simply click the following link to start receiving our e-mails.”

The judgement was made based on the fact that asking someone to consent to future marketing when they had already opted out was against the law.

Steve Eckersley, head of enforcement at the ICO commented “When people opt out of direct marketing, organisations must stop sending it, no questions asked, until such time as the consumer gives their consent. They don’t get a chance to persuade people to change their minds/” and going on to say “Emails sent by companies to consumers under the guise of ‘customer service’, checking or seeking their consent, is a circumvention of the rules and is unacceptable.”

This will be an interesting lesson for many businesses in the future where they are communicating with clients to ensure that emails that contain valuable customer service information or advice cannot be construed as a way to circumvent the withdrawal of direct marketing permission.

 
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