Meal-kit company HelloFresh is the latest brand to receive a major fine from the UK’s privacy regulator, after it was found to have overwhelmed consumers with 80 million spam messages.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) levied a £140,000 penalty on the Berlin-headquartered company after an investigation begun in March 2022 following complaints from the public.
It revealed the company had breached regulation 22 of the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003 (PECR), which lay out the rules for direct marketing calls, texts and emails.
In just a seven-month period – from August 23 2021 to February 23 2022 – HelloFresh sent subscribers 79 million spam emails and one million spam texts.
However, the ICO ruled that recipients had not given proper informed consent.
The messages were sent based on an opt-in statement which didn’t reference text-based marketing, the ICO claimed. In addition, references to email-based marketing were included in an age confirmation statement, which incentivized users to agree, the regulator said.
Customers were also not suitably informed that their data would continue to be used for marketing for up to 24 months after cancelling their subscriptions, according to the ICO.
Head of investigations, Andy Curry, argued that the case signified a “clear breach of trust” by HelloFresh.
“Customers weren’t told exactly what they’d be opting into, nor was it clear how to opt out. From there, they were hit with a barrage of marketing texts they didn’t want or expect, and in some cases, even when they told HelloFresh to stop, the deluge continued,” he explained.
“In issuing this fine, we are showing that we will take clear and decisive action where we find the law has not been followed. We will always protect the right of customers to choose how their data is used.”
Curry urged anyone on the receiving end of spam communications to get in touch with the ICO right away, or forward unwanted texts to the 7726 service.
The ICO claimed it has issued over £2.4m in fines to companies responsible for nuisance calls, texts and emails since April 2023.
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