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The Information Commissioner


Readers with long memories may remember that back in June last year I complained about spam from a company called Motorholme and that seven weeks later I got a reply from the Information Commissioner's Office to say they had accepted my complaint and were looking into it.

Well today, nine months after first making the complaint, I got this email from the ICO which I reproduce in its entirety:

Dear Mr Oldham

Thank you for your correspondence dated 22 June 2008 regarding unsolicited emails from Motorholme. Please accept our apologies for the considerable delay in our response which is due to increased volumes of correspondence being received by our office in recent months.

You have made a complaint under the Privacy and Electronic Communication Regulations 2003 (PECR). However, it isn't clear from your complaint whether the email address [...] is a personal email address or a company one. As PECR does not apply to limited companies, we have decided to treat your complaint as a Data Protection issue under Section 11 of the Data Protection Act 1998 (The DPA).

The DPA has eight principles of `good information handling'. These give people specific rights in relation to their personal information and put certain obligations on those organisations that are responsible for processing it.

Where we receive a data protection complaint we are under a duty, in most cases, to make an 'assessment'. This assessment is our view as to whether it is likely or unlikely that an organisation has complied with the DPA in the situation that has been described to us.

If we consider it is unlikely that an organisation has complied with the DPA, we will let you know and will decide what action, if any, to take. Whilst we cannot award compensation, we will educate the organisation to help them understand their obligations and advise them to take steps to comply with the law in the future.

As I understand it, you are concerned that Motorholme have continued to send you unwanted emails despite your clear instructions to the contrary.

The sixth principle says that `Personal data shall be processed in accordance with the rights of data subjects under the Act'. One of these rights is covered by Section 11 of the DPA which provides data subjects the right to prevent processing for purposes of direct marketing.

From the information you have provided it appears likely that Motorholme has failed to comply with the sixth principle in this case. This is because they have failed to stop sending you direct marketing communications after you told them that you didn't want to receive them.

In light of this it is my assessment that it is unlikely that Motorholme has complied with the DPA in this case. This assessment is based solely on the information you provided.

I will now write to Motorholme to tell them about this assessment and to recommend the steps they should take to bring their processing into compliance with the Act in this case and prevent similar likely breaches in the future.

I have made this assessment based only on the information you provided. Motorholme may well want to give their point of view. If they have any information to suggest that this assessment should be changed, I will ask them to provide it within 28 days and will write to let you know. Otherwise this matter is considered as closed.

So what was the point of me complaining? Nine months to get this far!

As it happens I have long since stopped receiving spam from Motorholme, possibly because they did finally get their act together in September last year (see my comment at the bottom of the original posting).

Tags: spam Written 01/04/09

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