Who: Telegraph Media Group (the “Telegraph”)
When: 21 December 2015
Law stated as at: 4 January 2016
The Information Commissioner’s Office (the “ICO”) has issued the Telegraph with a Monetary Penalty Notice for £30,000 after the Telegraph sent hundreds of thousands of unsolicited emails on the day of the general election, containing a letter from the Telegraph’s editor which urged the recipients to vote for the Conservative party. The communication resulted in 17 complaints being made to the ICO.
The Telegraph maintains separate mailing lists for readers who have provided consent to receive editorial content and for readers who have provided consent to receive marketing communications. On 7 May 2015 the Telegraph’s data team had planned to send a routine editorial bulletin, but were provided with a last minute addition to the email by the editorial team, namely the letter from the Telegraph’s editor, Chris Evans. Therefore, the recipients of the email were those Telegraph readers who had signed-up to receive editorial content from the Telegraph, some of whom had never provided consent to receive marketing communications.
Mr Evan’s letter stated that the 2015 general elections were “the most important since 1979” and stated that “The Daily Telegraph urges its readers to vote conservative.” As such, the addition of the editor’s letter changed the format of the communication from a purely editorial bulletin to a marketing communication. Some readers had not opted-out of receiving marketing communications and the soft opt-in rule would normally have applied, allowing the Telegraph to contact them with marketing communications for similar goods or services. However, the soft opt-in rule does not apply in the context of charity fundraising and political campaigning and the editor’s letter fell into the latter category.
The ICO determined that the Telegraph had breached The Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003, had been negligent in its transmission of the email and was, therefore, fined £30,000, which would be discounted to £24,000 if early payment was received and the Telegraph did not appeal.
Why this matters:
It is clear from the explanatory information within the Monetary Penalty Notice that the Telegraph had already established good practices regarding the use of its mailing lists for editorial or marketing communications. However, in this instance it was the result of a last minute change to the communication that altered the form of the communication from an editorial bulletin to a marketing communication, meaning that the correct steps were not taken to ensure that the recipients had provided appropriate consent for such a communication.
As such, this decision serves as a reminder that it is just as important to monitor compliance with internal policies and to perform regular training on data protection and direct marketing, as it is to have clear, coherent and up-to-date policies in place.