UK watchdog the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has fined American Express (AMEX) £90,000 for sending more than four million marketing emails to customers who did not want to receive them.
The ICO began investigating when it received complaints from Amex customers who were getting marketing emails despite having opted out from them.
During its investigation the watchdog found that AMEX had, between 1 June 2018 and 21 May 2019, sent more than 50 million of what it classed as servicing emails to its customers. However, the ICO says servicing emails should only contain routine information such as changes to terms and conditions.
Despite this, the watchdog discovered that more than four million of these messages were marketing emails, designed to encourage customers to make purchases on their cards that would benefit AMEX financially.
According to Regulation 22 of the UK’s Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003, it’s against the law to send marketing emails to people unless consent has been freely given.
The ICO’s head of investigations Andy Curry said: “This is a clear example of a company getting it wrong and now facing the reputational consequences of that error.
“The emails in question all clearly contained marketing material, as they sought to persuade and encourage customers to use their card to make purchases. AMEX’s arguments, which included that customers would be disadvantaged if they weren’t aware of campaigns, and that the emails were a requirement of its credit agreements with customers, were groundless.”
Commenting on the news, AMEX has told Credit Strategy: “Respecting our customers’ marketing preferences is a matter we take very seriously. When the ICO brought this issue to our attention, we took immediate action to address the concerns raised.”