LARGE and small businesses in Wales are being warned they face big fines if they fail to follow the rules on unsolicited ‘junk’ email and text marketing.

The warning comes from Gavin Davies, chair of the Chartered Institute of Marketing Wales, after new figures reveal the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has so far this year issued £1.7m of fines against businesses found guilty of sending unsolicited marketing emails and texts.

This month the ICO issued £495,000 in fines to We Buy Any Car, Saga and Sports Direct as a result of more than 354m nuisance messages the companies sent to potential customers.

The regulator said that none of these companies had permission to send the messages, with each investigation sparked by a complaint from a member of the public.

A survey, conducted by OnePoll for the Chartered Institute of Marketing highlights the size of the problem. A third of consumers (29%), say they have received communication from a business they did not give permission to contact them in the past month, while 19% believe they have received something in the past six months and 13% in the past year. Just 17% believe they have never been contacted by a brand without their permission, while 17% are unsure.

Mr Davies said: “Whilst not many companies are sending this volume of email and texts, the ICO has sent a clear message that it will tackle unsolicited marketing, irrespective of whether the messages have been orchestrated by a small business or a leading household name.

“Whilst many businesses are aware of the GDPR rules they often don’t appreciate if they’re sending direct marketing messages, they must first have people’s consent. As this action shows, ignoring the rules can lead to big fines.

“Businesses need to ensure their marketing teams understand how to achieve the lawful, profitable and ethical use of personal data or risk penalties. The CIM offers advice and training on how organisations can protect themselves from litigation and fines and as a result, build more successful and profitable marketing campaigns. I urge local businesses to check they are compliant as soon as possible.”

Under the ICO action, We Buy Any Car was fined £200,000 for sending 191m emails and 3.6m texts. People who requested online car valuations were bombarded with follow-up marketing emails without consent.

Saga Services Ltd and Saga Personal Finance were fined £150,000 and £75,000 respectively for sending more than 157m emails between them, using data lists of people who had not given marketing consent.

Finally, Sports Direct was fined £70,000 for sending 2.5m emails. It embarked on a re-engagement campaign between December 2019 and February 2020 and could not provide evidence of consent.

Information on GDPR complaint marketing training is available from www.cim.co.uk.