Companies fined for unsolicited marketing

Tue, Dec 4, 2012, 00:00

Companies that persist in sending unsolicited marketing messages by text and email will be prosecuted and face fines of up to €250,000 in court, the Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) has warned.

A beauty salon and a prominent mobile phone company were yesterday convicted and fined for sending such unsolicited marketing material.

Dublin-based Therapie salon and the Carphone Warehouse were among four companies in court facing prosecution by the commissioner.

Dublin District Court heard Therapie had sent marketing text messages to a customer this year with no option to opt out, even though she had asked the company to remove her number from its database in 2010. She had been assured this had been done and that she would no longer receive such messages.

She had originally given her number to a company called Optilase when seeking a quotation for laser eye surgery in 2008. The court heard Optilase was a sister company of Therapie and that the woman’s phone number had been kept on file and shared in a “highly unlawful” manner.

‘Totally frustrated’

Assistant DPC Tony Delaney said the commissioner’s office had been left “totally frustrated” by the lack of engagement from Therapie.

Counsel for the company said it took full responsibility and that “comprehensive measures” had been put in place to deal with the data protection concerns. Judge John O’Neill said the company had been responsible for “a clear lie” when it told the DPC it could not find the woman’s number on its database, while at the time time it was instructing a third-party company managing its marketing to remove her number.

He convicted the company on two charges relating to sending unsolicited messages and fined it €2,000 on each count. He took two other charges into account.

Carphone Warehouse was fined €1,250 on each of two charges relating to the sending of unsolicited email marketing messages.

Meteor prosecuted

Meteor was also prosecuted over the sending of an unsolicited marketing text. While the customer was the only one who complained to the commissioner, the message had been sent to between 11,000 and 18,500 people who should not have received it, the court heard.

The judge said if the company paid €5,000 to Temple Street children’s hospital by December 17th he would strike out the charge. If the money was not paid by that date he would convict and impose a fine of €5,000.

Hutchison 3G, trading as Three, was prosecuted on three charges – one of sending an unsolicited email, one in relation to an unsolicited phone call, and a third in relation to an unsolicited marketing text message sent to deputy DPC Gary Davis.

Judge O’Neill asked the company to pay €2,500 to Crumlin children’s hospital by December 17th. If payment was made he would strike out the charge. He took two of the three charges into account.

In all cases the companies pleaded guilty and the court heard they had covered the DPC’s costs.

The commissioner’s office said it was particularly concerned to be prosecuting telecommunications companies again. If they did not get the clear message this time, then it would have to seek fines of €250,000 so the message was clearly understood.