Kildare company fined for sending unsolicited and 'spam' emails

Kill-based company hast to pay fines for breach of data protection legislation

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Kildare company fined for sending unsolicited and 'spam' emails

The case was heard in Naas

A Kill-based company has been fined for breaches of the data protection legislation.

The case brought against an advertising company, Guerin Media Limited, with an address at 14 The Green, Kill, led to the company being fined a total of €3,000, or €1,000 on each of three charges.

At Naas District Court on February 5, the company pleaded guilty to three charges. A total of 40 charges had been initially brought.

The Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) said that, under European Union regulations, the company had sent emails for marketing purposes, which were unsolicited by those to whom they were sent. A second issue for the DPC was that there was no valid reply option on the emails for the recipients.

Judge Desmond Zaidan was told that while such cases had been brought before the Dublin District Court, this was a first for the Kildare area at Naas.

Tony Delaney, for the DPC, said the DPC got around 120 complaints a year for breach of the market regulation on “cold calling”.

There were three complainants in the Guerin Media case. He said all three got emails from the company seeking to place ads in publications. None had consented to getting the emails.

Mr Delaney said the DPC had warned Guerin twice about the complaints. “We don’t prosecute on the first breach,” he said.

They had warned the company on November 14, 2013, and on March 3, 2016. When contacted, the company said they would fix the matter but there was another complaint last year. Mr Delaney said the company has now engaged with the DPC.

There were breaches on March 21, 2017, and on June 1, 2017. One person received 17 emails of what he described as “spam”. One complainant worked in a hotel and another in the Bank of Ireland.

Mr Delaney said if the company wanted to contact a company it could do so, but not target an individual.

Guerin Media had no previous convictions. The maximum fine for each conviction is €5,000 but the court has discretion on that.

Mr Delaney told Matthew Byrne, solicitor for the company, that all of the complainant’s names had been removed from the company database and the company had agreed to pay €1,200 towards the DPC’s cost of the case.

Judge Zaidan asked how the company got the email addresses of the complainants.

Mr Delaney said that in one case it rang Bank of Ireland asked for the name of the individual, but it did not speak to the individual involved. He said with some companies or organisations, you can figure out the email if you know the name.

Mr Byrne said the company was small, set up six years ago and employed five people. An employee had sent the emails.

Judge Zaidan said that the company knew what it was doing and had been warned before.

Mr Byrne said that the owner, who operated out of his home, accepted it was his responsibility and had removed the complainants from the list.

Mr Byrne said that four charges at €5,000 each would “cripple” the company.

The judge asked if it was profitable. “Break even,” he was told.

The DPC said the €1,200 cost had already been paid so the judge made no order to costs. He fined the company €1,000 on each of three charges.