back to article ICO fines Morrisons for emailing customers who didn't want to be emailed

Supermarket chain Morrisons has been fined £10,500 by the UK's data protection watchdog for sending marketing emails to people who had unsubscribed from marketing bumf. The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) said the company had broken the law when it deliberately sent more than 200,000 emails to people who had previously …

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Note to HR. Don't even look at marketroid candidates with Flybe, Honda and Morrisons on their CV.

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Or Asda. They pulled the same stunt recently.

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Good - except the fine isn't high enough.

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Every little helps!

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Well, that's why mom's go to Iceland.

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+1 to that

"We sent out an information message to a small percentage of our customers that aimed to provide some helpful information about our service. We did this with the best of intentions and we're disappointed that this was deemed to be 'marketing material'."

In other words, they deliberately targeted customers who had opted out of emails?

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Happy

@wolfetone

Wolfetone,

how many mums have you got??

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FAIL

So basically this tells businesses that the cost of blatantly violating the rules and spamming people is roughly £0.08 per address - sounds like a good deal to me. Nice one, ICO.

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"sounds like a good deal to me"

Sounds like a fair price to me. Given the low conversion rates on spam, this is probably easily high enough to make such activities uneconomic. There's the reputational damage that they get from being fined for this, and repeat offending would be a serious aggravating factor if the company does it again, meaning a proportionately higher fine. Even if the ICO fined them millions, who'd end up paying? Ultimately customers would, or rank and file employees would suffer because the company would "cut costs" to offset the impact on investors.

I've seen this before where companies have an opt in/out and regardless of what you select, you "mistakenly" get included in the spam list, so I'm pleased to see the ICO dishing out some fines. If I really distrust the company then I'll take a screenprint of my opt out selection, and save that, though so far I've not yet had the delight of sending one of those to the ICO.

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"We sent out an information message"

An information message, riiiiight.

So marketing is not information then ? Thank you for the confirmation.

Personally, I don't care that £0.08 is enough to make it uneconomical. I would have fined £80 per message to make it downright prohibitive.

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Re: "We sent out an information message"

Rather like the doorstep hawkers ignoring our clear police-issue sign, insisting that they are "not selling anything". So, how's that financially worthwhile for your double glazing company?

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Re: "We sent out an information message"

It's not even uneconomical. Charging 8p a customer is less than it costs to send a postal marketing campaign, which Virgin Media seem to be happy dropping though my door on a weekly basis.

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Re: "We sent out an information message"

a postal marketing campaign, which Virgin Media seem to be happy dropping though my door on a weekly basis

Two solutions:

a) If you don't want the mail, return it marked "not known at this address". Works a treat even if you're a customer, and I suspect the cost of dealing with RTS mail is triple that of the original mail shot. The downside is that you've saved them money after three subsequent cancelled mailshots.

b) If (like me) you're a customer and hate Virginmedia because of their crap service, offshoring, and persistent price hikes, then put the junk mail in the bin. They'll keep on sending it, you keep binning it, and that way you're keeping up their marketing costs.

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Re: "We sent out an information message"

"If you don't want the mail, return it marked "not known at this address". Works a treat..."
Doesn't work with The Greens who have been regularly sending me stuff for several decades now. I just burn it in the stove. More plant food/toxic poison [delete whichever is inapplicable] for the atmosphere :-)

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Re: "We sent out an information message"

Most of the junk mail I get is un-addressed which apparently gets around my MPS registration. It is almost all delivered by the postman doing normal deliveries - indeed much of it proudly displays a 'delivered by Royal Mail' logo.

I simply take it with me in the morning and put it into a Royal Mail post box for them to recycle.

I am hoping, perhaps naively, that if enough of us do this it will become uneconomical for Royal Mail and we'd save a lot of resources.

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Re: "We sent out an information message"

We have a stamp that says 'unwanted' and do the same.

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Anonymous Coward

Royal Mail junk deliveries

They too offer an opt-out for unaddressed mail, one postie got into trouble for telling householders on his round a few years back, that had the benefit of getting national news coverage so we all got to hear about the option. For the postie in question the junk delivery meant a heavier sack and a longer round as he needed to visit houses that had no other mail that day.

I enquired and received a document stating that some unaddressed mail might be important communications from government or local authority notices. I had to a form to sign to confirm I was happy with that. I signed and years later I'm still getting all the junk. After a while I asked my postie about it and he said opted-out addresses get a note to that effect on their pigeon hole and mine hadn't got one but he also said it was easier for him to just deliver the crap to everyone so if I didn't mind binning it that was easier for him.

What Royal Mail could do is ask every household to opt in or out. Advertisers response rates must be well under 1%, if the junk only went to opted in addresses surely it would be worth the advertisers paying a lot more. Everyone wins, less postie time wasted, fewer unhappy recipients, several kilos of leaflets saved (per year, per household), advertisers waste less money and can afford to spend more on better materials and better targeting.

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Re: "We sent out an information message"

If there's a paid return envelope use that, mark it "junk mail return" and stuff it with anything else you can find to get the weight up. With Raddled Old Whore (sorry "Virgin" Media) , I would almost be tempted to add a dollop of excreta but this is illegal and unfair to staff who probably get enough metaphorical shit dumped on them already.

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A Morrisons spokesperson told The Register: "We sent out an information message to a small percentage of our customers that aimed to provide some helpful information about our service. We did this with the best of intentions and we're disappointed that this was deemed to be 'marketing material'."

The ICO should fine them again for this response; clearly they didn't learn.

A more appropriate response would be "We shouldn't have done this. The employees responsible have decided to seek fresh opportunities elsewhere.".

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"The ICO should fine them again for this response; clearly they didn't learn."

Aye.

I'm minded of a 1990s incident in New Zealand where the Ministry of Commerce heavily fined a computer distie for _deliberately_ selling 486 motherboards with fake cache ram (remember that stuff?), then turned around and tripled the fine after the company sent out email and other messages saying that it was an honest mistake and they didn't mean to do it.

As far as the MoC was concerned - because they'd determined the sales were deliberate(*), trying to wriggle out of it with customers constituted a breach of the judgement (and contempt of court).

(*) I encountered one of these boards, the BIOS was tweaked to lie, but Linux wasn't fooled. The supplier was notified and told us they knew about it, but kept shipping the boards.

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Anonymous Coward

"A Morrisons spokesperson told The Register: "We sent out an information message to a small percentage of our customers that aimed to provide some helpful information about our service. We did this with the best of intentions and we're disappointed that this was deemed to be 'marketing material'."

Over to the words of Sir Ken Morrison, former Chairman, at their 2014 AGM:

To loud applause, Sir Ken, who took up farming after retiring from Morrisons, said “I have something like 1,000 bullocks and having listened to your presentation I can say that you’ve got a lot more bull***t than I have.”

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Unhappy

A more appropriate response would be "We shouldn't have done this. The manglement responsible have decided to seek fresh opportunities elsewhere.".

A shame that it probably won't happen (I can hope can't I ?)

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The ICO should fine them again for this response; clearly they didn't learn.

Let's see if they appeal. If they appeal, they forgo the 20% early payment discount. I suspect that they won't appeal, and they will therefore technically admit their guilt, even whilst they publicly protest that they somehow weren't guilty.

I agree, though, that the ICO should call them out. It clearly was marketing material, and for some corporate f***wit to claim otherwise - well, if Morrisons are so f***ing disappointed, lets see them appeal this through the courts.

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Sainsbury's did worse

In 2010 ( think), Sainsbury's were sending out marketing emails despite my account settings recording that I had opted out. Towards Xmas, they were sending emails most days using a third party spamming house. My complaints and instructions to delete my account information were not acted upon.

I considered getting heavy with them, but instead I set an email filter to forward all Sainbury's emails back to Sainsbury's, with the hope that they would automatically acknowledge receiving each one.

It wasn't until five years later that I found the filter was no longer needed, and they got another order from me. During that time, all my online grocery shopping went to rivals. Ultimately, that's the real cost of doing this sort of thing, not a token fine.

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Happy

Re: Sainsbury's did worse

> I considered getting heavy with them, but instead I set an email filter to forward all Sainbury's emails back to Sainsbury's, with the hope that they would automatically acknowledge receiving each one.

I think a 'modern' equivalent would be to auto-tweet @Sainsburys: "Congratulations Sainsburys. You've just committed a breach of Regulation 22 of The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations, 2003. Enjoy your fine.

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Re: Sainsbury's did worse

"I set an email filter to forward all Sainbury's emails back to Sainsbury's"

Extra points if you could find the chairman's email address.

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Re: Sainsbury's did worse

Would that be nectar points

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Paris Hilton

Re: Sainsbury's did worse

"Ultimately, that's the real cost of doing this sort of thing, not a token fine."

No, it's not, because those us like you are a tiny drop in the ocean of customers who don't give a shit, are apathetic about it (cost of doing business, it's just how world is nowadays) or actually think the retailer cares about them personally.

Paris, because she cares!

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Poor legal filtering

It's strange how corporates make up reasons for NOT doing something based on what they interpret are "health and safety" laws*, but are happy to interpret wrongly information laws.

* - It's like Kryten's space corps directives in Red Dwarf sometimes - can't do that because three ginger haired toupee wearers are in the car park

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Flame

Far from unique

Starting to lose count of the number of companies who think it's OK to lob a speculative email almost exactly one year after the last speculative email which prompted me to unsubscribe from them.

They seem to operate as if there's an aspect of the law that allows them to dredge up old contacts, chuck them on a new list and off we go again.

Bar Stewards!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Far from unique

Ah but you unsubscribed from promotions@welovetospam.com, this is from offers@welovetospam.com

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Re: Far from unique

Or, you unsubscribed from the June 2017 campaign, this is the July 2017 campaign.

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They've taken the immortal words of Paul Simon...

"You don't feel you could love me but I feel you could"

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Thumb Up

Good news! I only wish it was a bigger fine. I've suspected a few companies of re-enabling opt-in after a certain amount of time has elapsed so you have to keep switching it off.

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Sky do this all the time. Where's their fine?

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Sky do this all the time. Where's their fine?

ICO are reactive. Have you complained?

https://ico.org.uk/concerns/nuisance-calls-and-messages/spam-emails/

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ICO

Common abbreviation for I Care Zero.

Examples to the contrary, anyone?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: ICO

"Examples to the contrary, anyone?"

https://ico.org.uk/action-weve-taken/enforcement/?facet_type=Enforcement+notices&facet_sector=&facet_date=&date_from=&date_to=

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Anonymous Coward

£10,500

ten grand....

WHAT?! Ten f... grand?!

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Temporary email addresses for firms you don't expect to deal with again is the best answer. Those you do have to deal with more regularly get their own address and if they spam it gets dropped and their spam bounces. Except one business I'm saving for their next AGM....

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Anonymous Coward

I went to a Business Link sponsored presentation on Email marketing a few years ago. The presenter was from a business that ran email marketing programmes for SMEs. He was touting for business. He explained that on one occasion he had inadvertently sent a mailshot to the list of addressees who had opted out. He said that had generated more leads than when he sent the mailing to the right list. He didn't go so far as to recommend this as an effective strategy but the implication was clear.

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Ken Morrison was shafted by the business his family built up from a little cheese stall in a Bradford market. Imagine your own child spitting in your face. Big business eh?

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Anonymous Coward

experts

and ever since they have slid faster and fasted down the slippy slope to being bought out, Uncle Ken was a proper retailer but since . . .

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The crucial weasel-phrase is "implied consent".

I once worked in a place with a mailing list of c. 3 million people. We (in IT) looked at the ICO guidelines on marketing preferences (optins). We told the Marketing Team that if we took the guidelines literally, it meant (a) we should now only mail c.10K of the names on the existing list, and (b) new account registration forms should not have the "send me spam" checkbox ticked by default. The Marketing Team shat themselves. They decided we had "implied consent" to carry on emailing all the accounts. By adding more things to opt-out of. Educational mailings, professional development mailings, third-party material mailings, and so on. With obscure unsubscribe links that automagically went to a data-silo that strangely never got sync'd with the live database.

Just don't call them Marketing optins, OK?

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