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ICO slaps cab app chaps for 10-day spam crap

Cambridge-based biz facing £45k fine for 700,000 marketing mailers

The company behind a taxi comparison app that sent more than 700,000 spam texts in the space of 10 days is facing a £45,000 by the UK's data protection watchdog.

Cab Guru, a Cambridge based firm that raised $2.8m (£3.7m) in its March 2016 seed funding round, runs a comparison app that gives users the low-down on the prices and journey times with various local taxi firms that are registered with it.

As part of its efforts to boost customer numbers, Cab Guru chose to send a mass batch of texts, which directed the recipients to a link to download the app. Some 706,650 messages were sent out between 27 May and 5 June 2016, with 360,373 of them being delivered.

But it transpired the business had failed to ensure people receiving the messages had consented to receive direct marketing material - and 166 people complained about the spam.

According to an investigation by the Information Commissioner’s Office, Cab Guru obtained the phone numbers from five of the more than 30 cab companies that are listed with the firm.

Cab Guru said there was no formal written contract or consent of the agreement between the customer and the cab companies.

But a deeper dive by the ICO found the taxi firms had baked automatic agreement to marketing into privacy policies or the service Ts and Cs, meaning consent to marketing was a compulsory term of use.

The ICO said that indirect, or third party, consent is only valid for sending direct marketing if that consent is “clear and specific enough”.

In the case of Cab Guru, it wasn't - and so the business was fined £45,000 by the ICO for breach of the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulation.

Andy Curry, manager of the ICO’s enforcement group, said:

"Just because an organisation might have a person's mobile phone number in its records, that doesn't mean it can call or send them marketing messages without their consent. This also applies to any associated companies.” ®

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