Firm fined for unsolicited spam e-mails and marketing calls

By Tom Tuite

Vodafone Ireland has been fined €2,000 for unsolicited marketing calls to customers.

Vodafone and PC World owners DSG Retail Ireland Ltd were the latest companies to be prosecuted at Dublin District Court by the Data Protection Commissioner for breaking e-marketing regulations through unsolicited spam emails and marketing calls.

Vodafone's two unsolicited marketing calls led to it being fined and an unwanted email from DSG Retail Ireland Ltd cost that company €1,500.

In evidence, Assistant Data Protection Commissioner Tony Delaney told Judge John Brennan that on May 17, 2018 and the following day a complainant had four missed calls from the phone company and on the fifth time he answered.

A generic image of man using phone

He told the tele-sales staff member he did not want any more marketing calls and he also received email confirmation of that.

In June, however, he had more calls from Vodafone about renewing his contract.

Mr Delaney learned the error happened as a result of Vodafone upgrading their system for GDPR. Aside from the customer's complaint, Vodafone also self reported the breach to the Data Protection Commissioner.

Some 22 people had been affected by the issue, Judge Brennan heard.

Mr Delaney said the second Vodafone complaint came from a man who had received frequent calls in May about a broadband offer which he did not want. An incorrect code was entered into the Vodafone system which indicated he wanted a call-back instead of stopping the calls.

Prosecuting solicitor Aoife O'Carroll told the court Vodafone had prior data protection convictions in 2011 and 2013.

Gavin Woods, the phone company's solicitor, said the first breach was a system error, “ironically involving the obligations to comply with data protection”, however, it has been fixed.

He explained that the second breach was human error and since then staff have had further training. The firm had also agreed to pay prosecution costs, he said.

Judge Brennan noted the firm's co-operation and that it had apologised to customers however he described the offences as “particularly annoying” and fined Vodafone €1,000 on each of the two charges.

Mr Delaney said DSG Retails Ireland's case related to a spam email to a woman in November 2017 offering Christmas deals from Currys and PC World.

The woman had given her email address only for the purpose of getting a copy of a receipt for a television but she had not consented to marketing emails.

The firm had no prior convictions, the court was told.

Defence solicitor Adrian Lennon told the court it happened as a result of a technical bug and measures have been taken to prevent it happening again. Judge Brennan noted DSG Retail Ireland had also paid prosecution costs.

He said it was very irritating and annoying that a customer's wishes were ignored.

He told the company that if it donated €1,500 to the Peter McVerry trust he would spare them a conviction and strike out the case.

Adjourning the case until a later date in November he said that otherwise he would record a conviction and fine it €2,500.

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