What Not to Do When the ICO Comes Calling
No one likes spam texts, even when they are done accidentally, or by someone who didn’t “know” they were sending them. In the past year, the ICO has identified and taken action against a variety of companies. Some of them were clearly deliberate violations of the regulations, but quite a few were not.
The most recent example (at the time of this writing), fell into the latter category. The company apparently thought they met the regulatory requirements. But the ICO felt differently. What happened next is the lesson of this blog.
Specifics of the case
Early in January 2016, the ICO began receiving complaints about PRS Media sending unsolicited text marketing messages. The complaints continued through May of that year, totaling 2,629 in five months.
It turned out the company runs a competition and prize draw website that it used to gather mobile numbers for marketing purposes. To enter a competition, a person must agree to their terms, which included statements about receiving marketing messages.
On the surface, that arrangement might sound reasonable. People signed up in order to enter the competition, so they shouldn’t complain about getting the messages, right? But that isn’t what the rules say about SMS marketing.
Based on the complaints, the ICO requested information from the company on their practices and proof that the people they messaged had provided consent. After further investigation, they found that 4.4 million text messages were sent by the company based on their website “consent” to terms and conditions.
Here's where it went wrong
PRS Media ignored the first two requests for information by the ICO. They simply didn’t do anything to address the concerns or complaints received.
Later in August and September 2016, the ICO requested more information and never received a response.
As a result, this past March the company was fined £140,000 for sending 4.4 million spam texts.
It didn't have to be this way
Based on the description of how PRS operated it’s SMS marketing, they certainly were going to have some sort of penalty from the ICO. It’s no longer sufficient to have a check box where someone agrees to terms and conditions that they probably never read (does anyone?).
But the Commissioner has many options when it comes to the action it takes against companies. And it seems that many of the decisions (monetary ones especially) come down to how the company handled the problem.
For example, in the Monetary Penalty Notice issued to PRS Media Limited, it specifically states that the breach was not deliberate. In other words, the Commissioner didn’t believe the company was trying to scam or circumvent regulations on purpose. They weren’t following the regulations, but it wasn’t intentional (my interpretation of the notice), though they should have known better.
However, because of how the company responded, the penalty was greater than it might have otherwise been. Here are the “aggravating features” of the case identified in the notice:
“PRS Media Limited failed on two separate occasions to answer requests for information and it required the service of an Information Notice to compel a response.”
“The response received from PRS Media Limited to the Information Notice provided unsatisfactory answers to the questions asked and figures provided were at odds with the Commissioners own findings.”
The result of the company’s inaction in response to the ICO requests resulted in the seriously hefty fine.
If it happens to your company
Staying compliant with the regulations isn’t hard. Even though there are changes coming with the GDPR next year, the ICO publishes easy to follow guidance on how to make sure your company stays on track.
But if somehow you end up with spam complaints and a letter from the ICO asking for more information – do everything you can, as fast as you can, to comply with the request. There may be consequences for not doing something correctly, but things will be much worse if you try to hide, ignore or talk your way out of it.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) issued seven monetary penalties against companies this year. We’ve read through them all – so you don’t have to – and discovered two lessons every company should learn about SMS marketing if they want to be successful.
Any UK business that collects, stores and uses other people’s personal data for purposes such as marketing and selling is subject to the rules of the Data Protection Act, and those using SMS marketing are no exception. Having a basic understanding of the DPA legislation and its main requirements is useful to maintain best practice in direct marketing such as SMS marketing and also helps to uphold your hard won customer trust - as well as avoid the potentially costly consequences of falling foul of the law. Read this article to learn how to avoid the simple pitfalls and get your SMS marketing campaign off to the right start.
Starting an SMS marketing campaign can be a daunting task. Gathering explicit opt ins can take time, as you need to make an investment in advertising. So why not just get a jumpstart and buy a list of mobile numbers from an organisation that already has the opt ins? You could do that, but it’s probably harder than just getting people to opt in on their own. Here’s why.
You’d think a large, multinational company would have all the resources and planning it needed to run an SMS marketing campaign. But that isn’t always the case apparently. Find out the big mistake this one company made and how you can avoid doing the same thing in this blog.
In many of our previous posts, we have discussed the whys and hows of SMS marketing, listing the benefits, and the impacts on lead generation. There’s no doubt that by employing a marketing strategy that uses business SMS as a medium that your processes will become more efficient and your leads will become more targeted, meaning a better ROI. Here we will look at the best practices for SMS marketing to ensure your campaigns are offering the best for you and your users.
In last week’s blog I covered how the Trump campaign sent unsolicited SMS messages to voters. This week I’m stuck on the same topic, but from a totally different angle: what we can learn from that failure. Because honestly, their biggest issue might not be violating the law. It might be the people they have writing their SMS messages. It’s time to dissect the message that spawned the law suit, and learn what we can from it.
SMS spam is a problem worldwide. But in the UK, we’re less likely to get it than many other countries. Find out why that is, see some examples, and how you can do your part to keep your SMS messages free of spam.
Electronic marketing is a tricky thing. There are rules and regulations you need to follow, and it can all seem pretty intimidating at first. To help you get started, I’ve gathered five of the most commonly asked questions about SMS marketing and the regulations and summed them up here.
Mobile marketing offers an unprecedented access to your customers virtually any time, anywhere. This is particularly true for SMS marketing because it is “always on”. Customers don’t have to be surfing the web, or using an app to receive messages. Instead, they see the marketing messages right alongside ones from their friends and family.