While talking about the junk email I’d received from Virgin Media, I mentioned my previous junk emails from Sage and from FindMyPast. These are instances where I’d decided to report the emails to the Information Commissioner’s Office – and while writing about Virgin Media, it occurred to me that I should probably write about the responses I had from the ICO. So, in the order in which they happened:
As I’ve said before in a number of posts (such as this one about Sage and this one about FindMyPast), as a general rule if I have to give an email address to any kind of organisation or submit one on a website, it tends to be one unique to that company. If I’m submitting that address via a form (web or paper based), if there is a tick box that says (in effect) “I don’t want junk email” I almost always tick it. In those cases where I don’t tick such an option for whatever reason (or where there isn’t such an option to start with), I should always have the option of “unsubscribing” by clicking a link in the emails – an option which, sometimes, I have exercised.
I have worked for pretty much my entire adult life in the field of accounts, and throughout that period I have almost always used, to varying degrees, a package from Sage.
This started in my first job, working for a firm of chartered accountants. Around 1990-ish, they had purchased a copy of Sage’s software. The intention was to use it to maintain the records for a client, and they asked me (as the resident computer geek) to learn to use the software so that I could train the person who would actually be using it, and provide oversight and support where necessary. Since then, I’ve used it at various clients and, in recent years, even for my own accounts.
That’s the claim of findmypast.co.uk, one of a number of websites designed to help those interested in the subject of genealogy with the task of investigating their family tree. They seem to think it is perfectly acceptable to send out a marketing email – very specifically, advertising new, lower subscription rates – and claim that it isn’t a marketing email, it’s a “service update”, an email that it is necessary to send out to their membership (and from which said members can’t unsubscribe).
Back in January, I wrote about an issue I had with Very, a Shop Direct Ltd trading arm. Specifically, they had started sending me marketing emails to an address I supplied when I made a purchase from LX Direct (which no longer exists, and also belonged to Shop Direct Ltd) – my policy when purchasing online is to use unique addresses (so I can monitor when companies abuse those addresses) and to opt not to receive marketing emails either from the companies concerned or any third parties. That clearly means those emails from Very were indefensible. They were spam – it’s as simple as that.
When do spam and credit checks go hand in hand? Easy: When the spam is from an otherwise legitimate mail order company, and their unsubscribe link takes you through an account sign up process before you can actually unsubscribe – an account sign up process which includes a credit check because, after all, by signing up you are applying for a credit account with them.
The company concerned is Very, a catalogue company which is a Shop Direct Ltd brand along with Littlewoods and a few others. Recently, I started receiving marketing emails from Very which, as far as I am concerned, are unsolicited, making them unequivocally spam. Being a fairly well known, legitimate company, though, I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt and tried unsubscribing by following the link in their emails. However, I discovered that in order to do so it is necessary to apply for an account with them, for which a credit check is required.
A more detailed outline of events, including a brief history that shows how they got my email address, follows.