A Kent pensions company which relied on 'misleading' professional advice has been fined £40,000 by the Information Commissioner's Office for being responsible for sending nearly two million direct marketing emails without consent.

An ICO investigation found that Grove Pension Solutions Ltd of London Road, Halstead, Sevenoaks, Kent was responsible for 1,942,010 emails promoting its services. The emails were sent between 31 October 2016 and 31 October 2017.

The ICO found that Grove Pensions Solutions Ltd had instructed a marketing agent to use third party email providers to carry out hosted marketing campaigns that advertised the company's services.

The company had sought specialist advice from a data protection consultancy as well as independent legal advice about the use of hosted marketing. However, the advice proved to be inaccurate and the ICO found that the marketing activity fell foul of the regulations.

Andy White, Director of Investigations and Intelligence at the ICO said:

"Spam email uses people's personal data unlawfully, filling up their inboxes and promoting products and services which they don't necessarily want.

"We acknowledge that Grove Pension Solutions Ltd took steps to check that their marketing activity was within the law, but received misleading advice. However, ultimately, they are responsible for ensuring they comply with the law and they were in breach of it. 

"The ICO is here to provide businesses with guidance about electronic marketing and data protection, free of charge. The company could have contacted us and avoided this fine."

The law says that organisations cannot generally send marketing emails unless the recipient has given them their consent to receive them. This applies equally to organisations using third parties to send direct marketing on their behalf.

The ICO publishes extensive guidance for organisations on its website and also provides a dedicated advice line.

Notes to Editors

  1. The Information Commissioner's Office upholds information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.
  2. The ICO has specific responsibilities set out in the Data Protection Act 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the Freedom of Information Act 2000, Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003.
  3. The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) give people specific privacy rights in relation to electronic communications. There are specific rules on:
    • marketing calls, emails, texts and faxes;
    • cookies (and similar technologies);
    • keeping communications services secure; and
    • customer privacy as regards traffic and location data, itemised billing, line identification, and directory listings.

      We aim to help organisations comply with PECR and promote good practice by offering advice and guidance. We will take enforcement action against organisations that persistently ignore their obligations.
  4. The ICO has the power under PECR to impose a monetary penalty on a data controller of up to £500,000.
  5. Civil Monetary Penalties (CMPs) are subject to a right of appeal to the (First-tier Tribunal) General Regulatory Chamber against the imposition of the monetary penalty and/or the amount of the penalty specified in the monetary penalty notice.
  6. Any monetary penalty is paid into the Treasury's Consolidated Fund and is not kept by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO).
  7. To report a concern to the ICO, visit ico.org.uk/concerns.