Brit telco BT has been ordered to pay £77,000 for sending almost 5 million nuisance emails – equivalent to about 1.5p a mail.
The telco sent out the spam mails, which were promoting three charity initiatives, between December 2015 and November 2016.
However, one customer who received an email complained that they had opted out of direct marketing messages, and passed the issue up to the UK's data protection watchdog.
After an investigation, the Information Commissioner's Office ruled that the firm had broken the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) that govern direct marketing.
BT had argued that, although emails about two of the campaigns – for Giving Tuesday and Stand up to Cancer – were direct marketing, they had only been sent to customers the business deemed had opted in.
However, the ICO found that BT included in this category not only people who had explicitly opted in, but also those who had previously failed to specifically opt out.
For the third campaign, about the BT "My Donate" platform, the telco claimed these emails were service messages, not direct marketing – and so should be considered outside the remit of PECR.
Again, the ICO disagreed, saying overall that the firm did not have the proper consent of the 4.9 million subscribers who received the unsolicited mails.
The fine handed down, some £77,000, will be pocket change to BT, and is equivalent to only about 1.5p per email. A similar case with Royal Mail saw the postal firm handed a £12,000 fine for 300,000 emails, which is about 4p a mail.
If the telco pays by 20 July, it can take advantage of the early-bird discount and hand over £61,600. ®
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