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Manchester festival marketers fined £70,000 over spam ‘mum’ texts

Especially offensive to complainants who'd just lost their mothers

Organisers of a Manchester music festival have been fined £70,000 after sending unsolicited marketing text messages.

The digital junk was sent to 70,000 people who had bought tickets for the 2014 edition of Manchester's annual festival, the Parklife Weekender, and appeared on the recipients’ mobes to have been sent by "Mum".

Some of the Parklife after parties have already sold out. If your (sic) going, make sure your (sic) home for breakfast! Xxx

Many of the 76 people who complained about the message suffered substantial distress as a result of the marketing campaign. One complainant said that their mother had recently passed away, so to receive a text was extremely distressing – or in the words of the complaint “unprofessional and disgusting”.

Another person reported that they had also recently lost their mum and were shocked when "Mum" flashed up as a notification on the mobile screen. They felt so strongly about the situation they sold the tickets and refused to attend the festival. The offending messages were sent in the three weeks prior to the 2014 festival.

Complaints were made to the firm, Parklife Manchester Ltd, the Information Commissioner’s Office, and the mobile network operators' Spam Reporting Service.

The ICO faulted Parklife Manchester for disguising or concealing the sender of a marketing message, a breach of privacy regulations, and fined it £70,000.

In a statement, head of ICO Enforcement, Steve Eckersley said: "This was a poorly thought out piece of marketing that didn’t appear to even try to follow the rules or consider the impact that their actions would have on the privacy of individuals."

"It made some people very upset in an attempt to sell tickets to a club night, and that is not acceptable. We would expect a company dealing with the details of as many customers as this to have a much better understanding of the law around marketing text messages," he added.

Parklife did not initially take the complaints seriously even joking about its ill-considered spamming on social media via a Twitter update.

So this is what it feels like to be a jar of Marmite #LoveItOrHateIt

Parklife Manchester subsequently issued a public statement apologising for any distress it had caused. It "cooperated fully" with the Commissioner’s investigation, according to the ICO. ®

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