Data Protection Commission welcomes outcome of prosecution proceedings taken against Three Ireland Limited and Vodafone Ireland Limited

07th September 2021

The Data Protection Commission welcomed the outcome of prosecution proceedings that were taken yesterday morning in the Dublin Metropolitan District Court against two prominent telecommunications companies in relation to marketing offences under S.I. 336 of 2011 in the Dublin Metropolitan District Court.

Three Ireland (Hutchison) Limited pleaded guilty to two charges of sending unsolicited marketing emails to one customer earlier this year who had not consented to his email address being used by the company for marketing purposes. The complainant opted-out of receiving marketing emails in mid-February 2021. When Three Ireland (Hutchison) Limited attempted to execute the opt-out request an issue arose from a scenario of two records getting sent simultaneously and losing sequence, resulting in its system not being updated correctly. As a result, three further marketing emails were sent to the complainant in the following weeks. The court applied the Probation of Offenders Act in this case on the basis that the company will donate €3,000 to the Little Flower Penny Dinners charity.

Vodafone Ireland Limited pleaded guilty to a total of seven charges of sending unsolicited marketing text messages, emails and telephone calls without consent. One case concerned a former customer who had called Vodafone on seven separate occasions to try to opt-out of receiving marketing phone calls to his mobile phone. On each occasion the agent he spoke to did not follow proper procedures and this resulted in him not being opted-out of marketing and receiving further marketing calls. The complainant closed his account with Vodafone Ireland Limited and switched to a different operator due to the marketing phone calls he received.

In the other two cases, the complainants are existing customers of Vodafone Ireland Limited. In one case, the customer received a marketing call to his mobile phone number in February 2019 and during that call the customer told the caller that he did not want to receive further marketing calls. Despite his request, Vodafone Ireland Limited subsequently made a further twelve marketing phone calls to his mobile phone as its agent did not take any action to change the complainant’s marketing preferences. In the other case, the complainant completed a transfer of ownership form on which he clearly set out his marketing preferences not to receive any marketing communications from Vodafone Ireland Limited. The agent handling the transaction failed to follow a process to input the customer’s marketing preferences. As a result, the customer subsequently received a further fourteen unsolicited marketing messages – seven emails and seven text messages. The Court convicted Vodafone Ireland Limited on seven charges and it imposed fines totalling €1,400.

Both defendant companies agreed to cover the DPC’s prosecution costs.