But the ICO confirms that taking organisations to court for non-compliance is the right course of action.
Having purchased a battery from Euro Car Parts in January, they proceeded to target me with unsolicited marketing by e-mail. In my view, Euro Car Parts had failed to comply with Regulation 22 of the PECR because they’d failed to give me a genuine choice not to receive such marketing – at the point they obtained my information. I contacted Euro Car Parts to find out what they had to say about it but I received no response. In fact, here’s a summary of my attempts to contact Euro Car Parts about this matter and how they responded:
On the 31 January 2017, I contacted Euro Car Parts’ customer services by e-mail and pointed out that they had no right to target me with unsolicited electronic marketing. I received no response from them.
On the 7 February 2017, I followed up with another e-mail to Euro Car Parts’ customer services. I received no response from them.
On the 17 February 2017, I contacted Euro Car Parts’ customer services by e-mail to make them aware of my intention to submit a complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office. I received no response from them.
On the 4 April 2017, I contacted the Euro Car Parts’ customer services by e-mail to make them aware of my intention to seek compensation and that they should pass the matter to their legal team. I received no response from them.
On the 5 April 2017, I contacted Euro Car Parts’ customer services by e-mail to formally opt-out of all direct marketing under Section 11 of the DPA. I received no response from them.
On the 22 April 2017, I contacted Euro Car Parts’ customer services by e-mail to make a general enquiry about discounts on bulk orders. I used the same e-mail address as I’d used previously; the same e-mail address that I used to register with them. I wanted to see whether they would respond to a general enquiry as this would suggest that they’d received my previous data protection related enquiries and had deliberately opted to ignore them.
On the 23 April 2017, I received a response from Euro Car Parts’ customer services by e-mail, confirming that they do not offer specific discounts on bulk orders. Nice to know that they were receiving my e-mails and were opting to ignore t
On the 23 April 2017, I replied to Euro Car Parts’ customer services by e-mail to clarify that I wasn’t really interested in discounts; that I just wanted to clarify that they had received my Section 11 opt-out. I advised them that they had no right to target me with marketing e-mails in the first place – Regulation 22 PER, and that they needed to comply with my Section 11 opt-out. I suggested that they seek advice from the ICO.
On the 24 April 2017, I actually received a response from Euro Car Parts’ customer services by e-mail. I was advised that if I do not wish to receive marketing e-mails from them, that I should click the ‘unsubscribe’ button located at the bottom of the e-mails. Clicking on the unsubscribe link is an option, but I am of the view that I didn’t subscribe in the first place so why should I have to unsubscribe. WTF! Furthermore, I tend to avoid clicking unsubscribe links because doing so has become too much of a risk these days. Let’s put it this way; if I’d received a phishing e-mail that looked like a marketing e-mail from Euro Car Parts, then by clicking the unsubscribe link, I could be inviting malware onto my computer. Anyway, it was nice to get a response from them at last.
On the 28 April 2017, I contacted Euro Car Parts’ customer services by e-mail to inform them that they needed to comply with my Section 11 opt-out and that the view of the ICO was that they should do this within 28 days for electronic marketing. I received no response from them.
On the 8 May 2017, I contacted Euro Car Parts’ customer services by e-mail to make it clear that they had failed to comply with my Section 11 opt-out and that it was my intention to claim compensation under Section 13 of the DPA unless they agreed to settle. I received no response from them.
On the 14 May 2017, I contacted Euro Car Parts’ customer services to give them another chance to settle. I received no response from them.
On the 19 May 2017, I contacted Euro Car Parts’ customer services to make them aware that I was going to file a claim. I received no response from them.
I filed a claim for compensation under Section 13 DPA.
Here is a summary of the marketing e-mails that I received from the Defendant in May 2017. Bearing in mind that I had sent a Section 11 opt-out to Euro Car Parts on the 5 April 2017, I am of the view that all of these e-mails were sent to me while I was legally opted out of all direct marketing – 28 days after the 5 April 2017:
- 5 May: Weekend Sale Is Here – Up to 55% Off Online
- 6 May: Weekend Sale Ends Midnight Tomorrow – Up to 55% Off Online
- 7 May: HURRY – Weekend Sale Ends Midnight TONIGHT
- 10 May: 2hr Sale – Shell Helix Ultra Professional AG Engine Oil – 5W-30 – 5ltr Only £19.30 – Code Inside…
- 13 May: Weekend Sale Ends Tomorrow – Massive Sale On Laser Tools Inside…
- 14 May: Up to 55% Off Online – Ends TONIGHT – Summer Essentials Inside…
- 16 May: 30% Off Car Parts – Polishers & Additives
- 17 May: 2hr Sale – Triple QX 5w40 Fully syn PD Oil – Only £21.99 – Ends 9pm
- 19 May: Our Biggest Weekend Sale EVER – 33% Off Online!
- 20 May: 33% Off Ends Midnight Tomorrow | Save On Car Care Inside…
- 21 May: Last Chance – 33% Off Online Ends TONIGHT
- 23 May: Up to 60% Off Online – Bank Holiday Sale Now On…
- 24 May: Bank Holiday Madness Continues – Pools, Gazebos & Garden Essentials Inside
- 25 May: Up To 60% Off Online – Save On Summer Travel & Valeting
- 26 May: Our Sale Has Been SUPERSIZED – Extra Discounts Online – Ends Monday
- 27 May: Bank Holiday Daily Deal – Buy 1 Get 1 Free On Selected Triple QX Engine Oils
- 28 May: Up to 60% Off Online – Bank Holiday Deals On Car Mats, Trims & Air Fresheners Inside…
- 29 May: Last Chance – Up to 60% Off Online Ends Midnight TONIGHT
- 31 May: Pay Day Flash Sale – 35% Off Online – Ends Midnight TONIGHT
With nonsense like this, it’s easy to see why reasonable people get pissed-off with e-mail marketing. It’s almost every day! Seriously! And what does this say about Euro Car Parts’ pricing policy; that they have so many sales? I had to buy a battery for my car urgently, but based on this number of sales, if I were to buy from Euro Car Parts again, I would definitely wait for the product to be offered at 55% off – at least. I feel like a bit of a chump now because it’s likely that I paid over the odds for the battery.
A far better solution in my view would be for Euro Car Parts to give their customers the opportunity to set-up alerts by selecting certain items. For example, I know that my brother is looking for brake components. Why not have an option where the user can click an item, select the level of discount required and only be notified by e-mail when the criteria is matched. Surely this is a far better use of marketing e-mails.
My claim for compensation
My claim focussed on the failure by Euro Car Parts to satisfy Regulation 22 PECR and their failure to comply with my Section 11 DPA opt-out. Euro Car Parts opted to defend the claim. I can’t give you details of their defence yet though, as their lawyers threatened me with legal action if I did. I’m not convinced however that their threat is valid, so I shall check with the judge when I’m in court next. I have two claims on the go at the moment. I’ll publish details of their defence if the judge says it’s okay.
It soon became apparent that Euro Car Parts’s legal team were unaware that I had opted out under Section 11 of the DPA. Either that, or they simply defend every claim by default. Either way, they asked me to provide them with evidence that I had opted out under Section 11 DPA so I provided them with a copy of the e-mail that I sent to their customer services on the 5 April 2017 to opt-out of all direct marketing in accordance with Section 11. It’s easy to do:
Once Euro Cart Parts realised that I had opted out under Section 11 DPA, they tried to reach an out of court settlement; a settlement where they don’t have to admit fault. According to the court rules (CPR) I don’t have to accept a settlement but it can go against you in court if you reject an offer to settle. But let’s weigh it up: they’d repeatedly ignored me, they’d ignored my Section 11 opt-out and they’d failed to comply with Regulation 22 PECR. I said that I’d be willing to settle out of court for a higher amount but they opted to settle the claim and admit fault.
In 2017 I donated £1,500 to charity by settling out of court. In 2018 I’m aiming to exceed this because I’m fed-up with organisations treating direct marketing like is some kind of joke. I don’t accept that in this day and age, organisations are “making mistakes”. In my view, if anyone is receiving unsolicited electronic marketing then the sender of that marketing has no case.