Festival Organisers Receive £70,000 Fine For Sending Inappropriate Marketing Texts

Organisers of the Parklife Weekender, held in Heaton Park earlier this year, have been fined £70,000 by the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) after sending inappropriate marketing texts.

A number of texts were sent out in the lead up to the festival, however the main criticism related to a text which appeared on the recipients’ mobile phone to have been sent by ‘Mum’. The text message was sent to 70,000 people who had bought tickets to last year’s event, and read:

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

The official Parklife twitter account immediately received a flurry of comments from people who had received the message, many of which expressed discontent. The organisers initially responded by tweeting:

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

The company subsequently apologised for any distress caused by the message and advised that they have complied fully with the ICO’s investigation.

Having received a number of complaints regarding the message, the ICO launched an investigation to assess whether the company was in breach of regulations by sending the text message.

Under the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR), it is not permitted to conceal or disguise the identity of the sender of a direct marketing communication which has been sent electronically.

In the event of a breach of the PECR, the Data Protection Act 1998 enables the ICO to issue a monetary penalty notice of up to £500,000 where the breach is of a kind which is likely to cause substantial distress. On this occasion, the ICO found that there had been a breach and substantial distress had been caused. A fine of £70,000 was issued as a result.

Whilst innovative marketing techniques may assist in getting noticed, businesses should be mindful of the potential consequences of doing so to ensure that they do not fall foul of any data protection, marketing or advertising legislation. Many businesses assume that the so called soft opt-in allows for a broader range of marketing communication than is actually the case. We would always recommend that any business planning on using this should take legal advice. If concerns do arise as regards any potential communication, businesses should contact Daniel Milnes in the Business Law Department at Forbes Solicitors for legal advice and assistance.

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