Feeds

Fed-up bloke takes email spammers to court – and WINS PILE of CASH

He did it without hiring a lawyer - and so can you

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

It's 9am. You open your email client and wade through the usual pile of spam that's dropped in overnight. It's boring and tiresome. But what if you could earn yourself a few hundred quid and kill the spam off as well?

In a landmark court hearing last week, Sky News producer Roddy Mansfield won unspecified damages from retail behemoth John Lewis after the company sent him marketing emails without his consent.

Mansfield represented himself at his local county court, having filed his claim using an off-the-shelf template. Despite being faced down by John Lewis' legal team he still won his case – and that victory could have huge implications for consumers fed up of being bombarded with spam.

The key to Mansfield's victory was Regulation 22 of the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003. This states:

Except in the circumstances referred to in paragraph (3), a person shall neither transmit, nor instigate the transmission of, unsolicited communications for the purposes of direct marketing by means of electronic mail unless the recipient of the electronic mail has previously notified the sender that he consents for the time being to such communications being sent by, or at the instigation of, the sender.

The exceptions include a situation where an organisation “has obtained the contact details of the recipient of that electronic mail in the course of the sale or negotiations for the sale of a product or service to that recipient.”

Mansfield successfully argued in court that John Lewis hadn't met any of those conditions, and also argued that John Lewis had broken the Information Commissioner's guidance on email marketing (PDF, 45 pages). This states that “best practice [for marketers harvesting email addresses] is to provide an unticked opt-in box, and invite the person to confirm their agreement by ticking.”

The killer paragraph, number 71, of the ICO guidance reads thus: “The fact that someone has failed to object or opt out only means that they have not objected. It does not automatically mean that they have consented.”

Mansfield filed his court case after browsing the website of Waitrose – the food retail arm of the John Lewis partnership – to check the price of a home delivery. Waitrose's website demands all potential customers supply an email address before it allows access to the home delivery finder. Crucially, Mansfield browsed away from Waitrose's website without buying anything.

Shortly afterwards his inbox began filling up with emails from John Lewis offering him clothes and “back to school” items for children, neither of which had any relevance to home-delivered groceries.

Mansfield said: "John Lewis argued that because I had not opted out of receiving their emails, I had automatically opted in. But an opportunity to opt out that is not taken is simply that. It does not convert to automatic consent under the law. John Lewis' lawyers then argued that because I browsed their website I had 'negotiated' with them for a sale and a business relationship existed between us which would allow them to email me.

“The judge threw that out too,” he added.

A John Lewis spokeswoman said: "Mr Mansfield voluntarily gave us his email address, set up an account online and chose not to opt out of marketing communications when that option was available to him. This case was a very specific set of circumstances and in this instance whilst we do not agree with the decision, we will abide by it. We apologise to Mr Mansfield that he was inconvenienced by our emails."

Register readers considering taking unsolicited email spammers to court might want to read about Steve Higgins, who used the same method to earn £1,750 from various companies which refused to stop sending him unsolicited email. ®

Bootnote

Mansfield's court victory hasn't gone down well with the spam industry. In a bizarre post on what appears to be the official blog of the Direct Marketing Association's Email Marketing Council, one Dela Quist, who appears to be the CEO of a "digital marketing agency with a 100% focus on email", labels him a “Data Directive litigation troll”.

Sadly the DMA's own website appears to be dead. Perhaps an angry recipient DDoS'd them out of existence?

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
Lords take revenge on REVENGE PORN publishers
Jilted Johns and Jennies with busy fingers face two years inside
Yes, yes, Steve Jobs. Look what I'VE done for you lately – Tim Cook
New iPhone biz baron points to Apple's (his) greatest successes
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Facebook pays INFINITELY MORE UK corp tax than in 2012
Thanks for the £3k, Zuck. Doh! you're IN CREDIT. Guess not
Ex-US Navy fighter pilot MIT prof: Drones beat humans - I should know
'Missy' Cummings on UAVs, smartcars and dying from boredom
Sysadmin with EBOLA? Gartner's issued advice to debug your biz
Start hoarding cleaning supplies, analyst firm says, and assume your team will scatter
Edward who? GCHQ boss dodges Snowden topic during last speech
UK spies would rather 'walk' than do 'mass surveillance'
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.