back to article Priceless: The cost to BT for bothering you with spam? 1.5 UK pence per email

Brit telco BT has been ordered to pay £77,000 for sending almost 5 million nuisance emails – equivalent to about 1.5p a mail. The telco sent out the spam mails, which were promoting three charity initiatives, between December 2015 and November 2016. However, one customer who received an email complained that they had opted …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Recently BT have regularly been sending me an addressed letters trying to get me to move to them as my broadband ISP.

    I am a BT landline phone customer. Are they breaking the marketing rules by apparently using their knowledge from elsewhere that I have an ADSL broadband service with someone else?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Did you opt-in for marketing? If not that's a breach of GDPR that is.

      1. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

        You have a business connection with them. That means that they are within their rights to send you business communications, which includes informing you of services - ie marketing.

        If you opt out of this, however, they would be committing an offence if they continued to send you marketing...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Marxism

      No they are not breaking any rules, it’s basic marketing, and via post it’s not covered by GDPR.

      Since they already provide you with a line, not only are they entitled to market another of their products but of course they know if they’ve switched on broadband for you!

      Do you want to live in a Marxist state where the state provides everything, no competition, no marketing, just Party Slogans demanding you toil harder to meet the 5 year production plan? Try living in North Korea if a bit of marketing offends you.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Marxism and entitlement to spam

        "Since they already provide you with a line, not only are they entitled to market another of their products but of course they know if they’ve switched on broadband for you!"

        Just wow, is this really what marketing people think about their employer's customers.

        Where is the customer's entitlement to such things as privacy and choice?

        BT in this instance didn't switch on broadband for them out of the goodness of their hearts they were paid more than enough to do it, that they attempt to resell everything shows that no matter what they are paid for a service they are neither satisfied nor willing to hold their customer inviolate.

      2. SImon Hobson Silver badge

        Re: Marxism

        Since they already provide you with a line, not only are they entitled to market another of their products but of course they know if they’ve switched on broadband for you!

        That was "iffy" before, but as of 25th May no longer true. The information they hold in order to provide teh phone line cannot be used for any other purpose without your explicit consent - failing to opt out of assumed consent no longer washes.

        Similarly, they may not use information on which communications provider had them enable ADSL for any purpose other than to manage that provision.

        But presumably these complaints predate 25th May, and so they may have assumed consent, or used a pre-ticked "let us spam you" box on a web page, or a box to tick labelled in 2 point text with "tick this box if you want us to not unwithhold your information from 3rd parties", or ...

      3. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Marxism

        Since they already provide you with a line, not only are they entitled to market another of their products but of course they know if they’ve switched on broadband for you!

        BT provide the property with a line, so BT can use the information they have to send mailshots to the property, marketing their services, such communications being addressed to "the occupier".

        Where you have or have had a business relationship with BT, then depending on what tick boxes on which service you may or may not have ticked then they may have grounds to send to you, by name marketing information.

        I'm not sure what the status now is of the broadband checkers, where you enter your phone number and get a service availability and a little while later you get a sales phone call...

  2. Luke Worm

    Minimum fine for spam should be the value of one stamp per email.

    1. Chunky Munky

      First class, of course!

      1. Mycho Silver badge

        Air mail to Antarctica.

    2. JetSetJim Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Pfft, £300 seems a better reward, although you'd have to pay a £30 filing fee to make the attempt

      Icon: a more suitable punishment, and possibly the only way

    3. kain preacher Silver badge

      I'm thinking 1.5 the cost of a first class stamp.

    4. Mark 85 Silver badge

      The fine is pointless. They will spend more money on lawyers than they would by just saying "oops" and paying the fine.

  3. Blockchain commentard Silver badge

    "sent to customers the business deemed had opted in" - if I've deemed that I don't want to pay for my phone line/fibre, does that mean I don't need to?

    1. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

      ...if I've deemed that I don't want to pay for my phone line/fibre, does that mean I don't need to?..

      Quite correct. You have total control in this matter. If you don't want to pay for a phone line, then you don't need to.

      However, BT then do not have to provide you with one.

  4. Semtex451 Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Another missed opportunity to kill off the BT leviathan. Fine should be the price of a hours call to the Oz speaking clock, per email.

  5. adam payne Silver badge

    I regularly get letters from BT telling me a could get free broadband with them. Free broadband with a 1GB monthly limit. Wow 1GB limit.

    1. ArrZarr Silver badge

      Set your clock back 20 years and that's a good offer.

      Maybe.

      Better to be safe and set the clock back 30 years, that would do the trick. You'd be the talk of the nerd of the town!

    2. Lee D Silver badge

      Wouldn't cover Windows Update, let alone anything else.

    3. Roland6 Silver badge

      >Free broadband with a 1GB monthly limit.

      I expect there are a lot of people who will regard this as a bargain, pay the extra for going over the monthly data and call limits, yet refuse to commit to paying a set amount each month for a reasonable data cap or unlimited, as they fail to add up the costs and consider the total contract cost.

  6. King Jack
    Mushroom

    % of income

    Big Corps should be fined a percentage of their income. They are not a person so they should be treated like the faceless companies they are. After a few rounds all abusing corps will fall into line. If I were BT I'd be lining up the next mail shot and laughing all the way to the bank.

    1. GreggS

      Re: % of income

      That's supposed to be what the fine will be more aligned to under GDPR. These offences took place before that kicked in though.

    2. Peter Ford

      Re: % of income

      Big Corps' C-suite should be fined a % of their salaries and bonuses, with no pay increments or other rewards paid until the fine has been cleared (and perhaps a few years afterwards)

      Otherwise $BIG_CORP just puts their prices up or squeezes their customers some other way to pay for the fine. You have to make the people at the top of the corporation feel the pain otherwise nothing will change...

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: % of income

        >with no pay increments or other rewards paid until the fine has been cleared

        This is actually something that could quite easily be included in the renumeration package calculations... perhaps just need some major shareholders (pension funds?) supporting an AGM motion...

        1. DJO Silver badge

          Re: % of income

          How about doing it like this:

          All fines and penalties to be taken from the board of directors pension fund.

          Any attempt to bolster the fund after paying a fine incurs a quadruple fine against each board member.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: % of income

      King Jack: "Big Corps should be fined a percentage of their income. They are not a person so they should be treated like the faceless companies they are. After a few rounds all abusing corps will fall into line. "

      You reckon? You've not been following the serial misbehavours of banks and financial services companies for many, many decades, if not centuries?

  7. AndrueC Silver badge
    Happy

    I got a £25 credit from Barclaycard when they sent me spam. I got three letters ('We acknowledge your complaint'), ('We are looking into your complaint') then ('We agree that your complaint is valid so here's £25'). I don't use that card much but decided to use the funds to pay for a couple of trips through the M6 toll. I think there's still a couple of quid left on it.

  8. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
    Mushroom

    What about...

    1) All that snail mail spam I get from Virgin Media? There seems no way in hell to get it to stop. As a result, I will never, ever in a million years sign up to your service.

    2) All the fake calls I get purporting to from BT with a 'nice' woman called Susan (other names are available) with a heave Indian accent wanting to talk to me about my Broadband. Todays call apparently came from a Basildon(01268) number that does not exist. (I don't use BT)

    3) All the calls purporting to come from 'The Technical Department at Windows' from someone called Peter (other names and genders are available) wanting to sort out the virus/malware/slow running of my Windows system. (I don't use windows)

    Come on ICO/OFCOM, get of your fat backsides and stop that. Far more of us get bothered by these than a few calls from BT.

    Naturally you won't.

    I'd love to put a call blocker but now that the NHS seems to block their numbers, it is naff all use.

    Catch-22 and a sodding useless ICO/OFCOM.

    See Icon for what I'd like to do to both of them.

    1. dave 81

      Re: What about...

      The Virgin stuff bugs the hell out of me. What can be done about it?

      1. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        Re: What about...

        Return to sender? Make them pay twice for it....

        1. DiViDeD Silver badge

          Re: Return to sender?

          I thought the accepted response was 'return to sender, securely taped to a breeze block (other heavy objects are available)'?

      2. Ledswinger Silver badge

        Re: What about...

        The Virgin stuff bugs the hell out of me. What can be done about it?

        1) Mark it clearly "Return to sender, Addressee not known at this address", drop in postbox. You (might) be surprised at how effective that can be, because marketeers are curiously precious about the segmentation of their efforts. So if it seems that the "victim" isn't who they think it is, they often have very good procedures in place to fix it.

        2) Less effective than (1): Make illegible the addressee from outside the envelope (ideally unopened) and put back in postbox with the legend "Redirect to Fatco boss, headoffice address". His complaints team or PA might get the message.

        3) Write to the offending company's CEO, complaining about junk mail, asking for all your details to be deleted from their systems and marketing databases, revoking all claimed or implied consents to accept marketing, and threatening an ICO complaint under GDPR if any further junk mail arrives. This should be most effective, but you have to pay the postage.

        Although if it is not personally addressed to you, and is delivered by the Post Office under the "unaddressed stuff and run" programme, nothing you can do about it.

    2. andyfromcambridge

      Re: What about...

      I've been getting spam from virgin for years.

      I have never been a customer of virgin.

      I was a customer of NTL.

      Every so often I ring them up and say stop this.

      Its not happened yet.

      Useless.

    3. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: What about...

      Won't work if the letter is addressed to "The Occupier" though.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What about...

      "1) All that snail mail spam I get from Virgin Media?"

      I get those addressed letters quite often - in spite of trying just about every complaint path to them. To add insult to injury they put their local distribution box against my front hedge - which complicates the cutting.

      Furthermore the lock on the box door has been broken for years - and the latch removed. I put a band of plastic zip ties round the box it to stop it swinging open across the pavement. When a VM engineer comes to the box they just cut the ties. That just about sums up why I would never use VM as an ISP.

  9. LeahroyNake Bronze badge

    Unfortunate

    'Giving Tuesday and Stand up to Cancer' ? they sound like worthy causes to me, what makes the difference to the amount that they have to pay back.

    Why did Royal mail have to pay back more per spam ?

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Unfortunate

      >Why did Royal mail have to pay back more per spam ?

      From a quick read of the two penalty notices:

      ico. Royal Mail penalty notice

      ico. BT penalty notice

      There does seem to be a minor difference between the two cases, but it does seem as if the fine has been plucked out of the air. Even more so when you look down the list of ico. enforcement actions and see the penalties awarded to others...

      Digressing, it is interesting comparing the two notices. It is clear the ico. have a proforma with some standard text, however, it does seem to be inconsistent in the way it records things, so you can't do a straight numbered paragraph to numbered paragraph comparison.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Another great job from the chocolate teapot ICO

    Grrr :(

  11. The Dogs Meevonks

    There needs to be a minimum rate set per email for these kinds of things... and it needs to be excessive to the point that 'risking' it becomes prohibitive and financially critical.

    5 million emails at say 50p each... that'd make them think twice.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Mess with the marketing droids

    Scenario:

    You get multiple unsolicited items inside company envelopes.

    Method:

    Take out each item and re-insert into a different company's envelope and re-seal.

    Mark each envelope as "Return to sender, not know at this address".

    Post.

  13. SImon Hobson Silver badge

    Although this is a pittance of a fine, given that this is a "real" business, there are two upsides compared to many of them :

    1) It will actually be paid, unlike many of these massive fines that will never be paid as quite coincidentally the business filed for insolvency just before the fine was announced, and also quite coincidentally the same people have started a completely unconnected company doing the same type of work from the same office.

    2) It's a permanent black mark against the company and some senior managers will take note of that. Granted less of them, and less notice than before (long time ago) when it was actually run by people who gave a s**t about service and image - but it's still (yet another) blemish on their image.

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