The importance of knowing your service messages from your marketing messages

The £100,000 fine of telecoms company EE from the ICO for sending over 2.5 million direct marketing messages to customers who had opted-out is a stark reminder that you mustn’t mix your service messages from your marketing messages. Or more importantly, make sure you are clear whether something is a marketing message and don’t market to people who have opted out.

In this case the ICO found that over 2.5m text messages had been sent to users who had opted-out of EE marketing. The messages in question were about the use of the EE app to keep on top of your account, data usage, etc. Two messages were sent, the first also included a plug for upgrading to a new iPhone.

EE argued that the messages were service messages, but the ICO disagreed, hence the fine.

Andy White, ICO Director of Investigations said:

”These were marketing messages which promoted the company’s products and services. The direct marketing guidance is clear: if a message that contains customer service information also includes promotional material to buy extra products for services, it is no longer a service message and electronic marketing rules apply.

“EE Limited were aware of the law and should have known that they needed customers’ consent to send them in line with the direct marketing rules.”

“Companies should be aware that texts and emails providing service information which also include a marketing or promotional element must comply with the relevant legislation or could face a fine up to £500,000.”

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