Trading as findmeafuneralplan.com, BFL was behind 4,396,780 emails that were sent from January to September 2017. The emails were sent to people who had subscribed to websites operated by BFL’s affiliates, but who had not given their consent to receive them.
The ICO investigation found that in all but one of the websites, it was not made obvious who the emails were from – although they did mention prepaid funeral plan providers in some cases. The majority of the websites did not provide subscribers with the opportunity to opt out of third party marketing.
Andy Curry, ICO enforcement group manager, said: “Companies seeking to use email marketing must make sure they follow the law. People would particularly expect this to be so when the subject may be perceived as sensitive, as in this case.
“Boost Finance relied heavily on their affiliates to deliver millions of unwanted messages to members of the public, and also ensure compliance with the law. However, it was Boost Finance’s responsibility to ensure they had valid consent to send the emails. Businesses should send marketing messages in compliance with the law or face potential enforcement action by the ICO.”
The law states that organisations must have consent to send such emails. That consent must be freely given, specific and informed and involve a positive indication – such as ticking a box.
The investigation found that BFL relied upon “inadequate and misleading methods” to collect personal data to obtain consent and that consent was not sufficiently informed and therefore breached the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR). Consent is not informed if people do not understand what they are consenting to.