Vanquis reportedly behind over 1.48 million illegal messages promoting banking services

email data breach

Vanquis Bank Limited reportedly instigated a campaign to promote and advertise its banking services by instructing a third party to send 870,749 spam text messages, and another 620,000 spam emails.

As recipients reportedly didn’t consent to receiving these types of messages, Vanquis were found in breach of the law and have been ordered to stop and pay a £75,000 fine.

Some 131 complaints about the texts were made to the 7726 spam reporting service.

The free 7726 service provided by Ofcom allows mobile phone users to forward spam texts to the number 7726 (the numbers spell out SPAM on a telephone keypad). Ofcom understands that no one wants to be, “bombarded with spam texts advertising products and services they don’t want”, and so does the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

The ICO investigated the spam messages and found that Vanquis was responsible for instigating the unwanted messages. Vanquis apparently instructed a third-party to send hundreds of thousands of messages, but failed to ensure that the list of recipients had consented to receive them.

Under the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR), organisations may not send emails and texts for direct marketing purposes unless they have received proper consent from the recipient saying they are happy to be contacted that way for that purpose.

Consent needs to be clear, specific and freely given.

Vanquis’ website contained a typical privacy policy saying that visitors and users’ information may be passed onto a third-party, but did not specify why and what would be done to that personal data. This kind of clause is not enough for data subjects to consent.

The ICO could not find satisfactory evidence that Vanquis did obtain proper consent, and therefore concluded that the banking company had sent unsolicited direct marketing messages; thus breaking the law.

Head of enforcement for the ICO, Steve Eckersley said:

“There are rules in place to protect people from the irritation, and in some cases anxiety and distress, spam texts and emails cause.

People need to be properly informed about what they are consenting to – telling them their details could be passed to ‘similar organisations’ or ‘selected third parties’ cannot be relied upon as specific consent.”

The Commissioner issued an enforcement notice under the Data Protection Act with reference to the PECR ordering Vanquis to stop sending / instigating the sending of any unsolicited communications for the purposes of direct marketing via unwanted emails or texts, unless the recipient clearly and specially consents to it.

Vanquis has been ordered to pay a £75,000.00 fine.

Vanquis’ sister company, Provident Personal Credit Ltd, recently received a similar fine of £80,000.00 over the sending of thousands of unwanted and illegal text messages. Parent company of both firms, Provident Financial Group, responded to the fines promising to do better by, “reviewing its marketing processes and put in place steps to ensure that contraventions of this nature do not occur again, including no longer working with the third-parties concerned.”

IMPORTANT: advice on this page is intended to be up-to-date for the 'first published date'.

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