Mobile network EE has been fined £100,000 for sending millions of text messages to customers without their consent.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said EE sent more than 2.5 million messages in 2018 encouraging customers to download an app and to upgrade their phones, as well as follow-up texts to those who did not react to the first one.
EE argued that the communications were sent as service messages and were therefore not covered by rules on electronic marketing. The ICO disgreed.
The watchdog ruled that the UK’s largest network operator did not intentionally set out to break the rules but was aware it was sending direct marketing to customers who had not agreed to receive messages.
Electronic marketing can only be sent to existing customers who have given consent and if a simple way to opt out of marketing is provided.
“These were marketing messages which promoted the company’s products and services,” said Andy White, ICO director of investigations.
“The direct marketing guidance is clear: if a message that contains customer service information also includes promotional material to buy extra products for services, it is no longer a service message and electronic marketing rules apply.
“EE Limited were aware of the law and should have known that they needed customers’ consent to send them, in line with the direct marketing rules.
“Companies should be aware that texts and emails providing service information which also include a marketing or promotional element must comply with the relevant legislation or could face a fine of up to £500,000.”
EE said it accepted the ICO’s findings and has begun working to improve its processes.
A spokesperson said: “We’re committed to ensuring our customers are fully aware of their options throughout the life of their contract, and we apologise to the customers who received these messages.”