American Express Fined – Sent Millions of Spam Messages!

American Express Fined – Sent Millions of Spam Messages!

UK regulators have ruled that Amex sent 4m nuisance emails to opted-out customers.

American Express Services Europe has been fined £90k by a UK regulator, which found the company illegally sent out 4m marketing emails to customers who had opted out of receiving them.

Critics stated the fine, which is nominal for the multi-national financial brand, is not likely to do much to deter Amex, or any other company, from engaging in the practice.

Service Communications

Amex claimed the emails weren’t marketing messages, but service communications, which are allowed under UK information privacy regulations. However, an investigation by the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office found that out of 50m emails Amex sent & classified as “service” emails over a 12-month period, 4,098,841 were marketing messages, “designed to encourage customers to make purchases on their cards which would benefit Amex financially.

It was a deliberate action for financial gain by the organisation,” the ICO announcement of the fine explained, adding the company continued the practice even following consumer complaints.

Marketing Spam Illegal

Privacy & Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) gives customers in the UK control over the marketing messaging they receive & grants the ICO authority to fine companies in violation of basic rules. In fact, PECR explicitly makes it illegal to send marketing messages to consumers without permission.

“Our investigation was initiated from just a handful of complaints from customers, tired of being interrupted with emails they did not want to receive,” ICO Head of Investigations Andy Curry explained.

“I would encourage all companies to revisit their procedures & familiarise themselves with the differences between a service email & a marketing email & ensure their email communications with customers are compliant with the law.”

‘Slap on the Hand’

Netenrich’s John Bambenek said fines this small are not likely to do anything to deter companies from pushing boundaries.

“Many countries have laws that regulate sending spam,” Bambenek outlined. “In the US, the CAN-SPAM Act governs this. The reason we keep seeing spam is because the laws governing it are truly toothless. ”

Dirk Schrader from New Net Technologies described the fine as “a slap on the hand to Amex,” & added, “likely the company will simply accept the fine & tune their messaging as it is now seen as known offender.”