EE, the mobile operator arm of BT, is nursing a six-figure fine for texting more than 2.5 million pain-in-the-ass direct marketing messages to customers without their consent.
The £100,000 penalty handed down by the UK's Information Commissioner's Office (PDF) was for sending mailers in early 2018 that pestered punters to download and use the My EE app to manage their account, and to upgrade their phone.
Just for good measure, a second round of messages were subsequently sent to EE customers that had decided not to interact with, use or download the app after the first wave of nagging.
In total, the mobile operator distributed 16.6 million messages to customers between February and March last year, and 2.59 million of these were to people who had opted out of receiving marketing messages via text.
EE claimed the texts were dispatched as service messages and so not subject to electronic marketing rules.
The ICO disagreed and said the texts contained direct marketing and were deliberately sent with this purpose in mind. The UK's data watchdog conceded EE "did not deliberately set out to breach electronic marketing laws" but said it had "failed to take reasonable steps to prevent the contraventions."
Andy White, ICO director of investigations said:
"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 electronics marketing rules apply.
"EE were aware of the law and should have known that they needed customers' consent to send them in line with the direct marketing rules," he added.
The fine that EE received was one-fifth of the potential size for sending nuisance messages.
An EE spokeswoman sent us a statement:
“We accept the ICO’s findings, and we’re working to improve our internal processes. 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.” ®