Spam

Why it is worth chasing spammers…

Every now and then I get a bee in my bonnet about the spam we receive – though its pointless chasing the endless  farmed spam, when you can clearly identify legitimate companies its worth a shot.

You may have seen a couple of other articles on this site where I have taken spamming up with Little Chef and their list brokers, B2B Data Lists. This morning I received this response from the Direct Marketing Commission;

 

“Further to your complaint against B2B DataLists and further to our recent investigations into complaints about the direct marketing activities of B2B Data Lists Group/Data Providers UK, the case files have been referred to the panel of Commissioners for formal adjudication and they have now reached their conclusions.

The investigation by the Direct Marketing Commission began in June this year following receipt of a number of complaints.  The Commission looked at the concerns raised by the complainants and also considered previous complaints received within the last year.

As a result of these investigations, the Commission has upheld four breaches of the Fourth Edition of the Direct Marketing Code of Practice.  In relation to your specific case, the Commissioners considered that you were not treated courteously by B2B Data Lists when requesting information about the origins of a list which had been used to email businesses for a promotion that was clearly designed for families/parents. Your legitimate questions were met with threats of legal action. The Commissioners decided it was appropriate therefore to uphold a breach of Clause 9.33 in the Direct Marketing Code of Practice which states that:

If a complaint is found to be justified, members should settle it quickly, effectively and courteously.  If a complaint is not justified, this should be politely explained to the complainant.  Where there is any uncertainty, the member should give the customer the benefit of the doubt.

Given the above breach of the Code in relation to this complaint, the Commissioners upheld a breach of 3.19 which asks that:

In all their dealings with consumers, other businesses and each other, members must act decently, fairly and reasonably, fulfilling their contractual obligations at all times.

In this case the Commissioners did not feel they could uphold a breach of Clause 3.13 which states that:

Members must accept that in the context of this Code they are normally responsible for any action (including the content of commercial communications) taken on their behalf by their staff, their sales agents, their agencies, their direct marketing suppliers and others.

The marketing messages were issued by Little Chef who were acting in an independent capacity using data from B2B Data Lists.

The Commissioners also took this into account in relation to Clause 14.12 which states that:

Unless they have prior consent, members must not send marketing communications to business email addresses for goods or services that the recipient would only purchase in an individual capacity. However, members may send unsolicited emails to staff of limited companies and plcs provided:

a) the goods and services marketed are restricted to those that the recipient would purchase when acting in a professional capacity, and

b) the recipient is offered a simple mechanism by which to unsubscribe/opt-out of receiving further email marketing messages from the sender.

Members must not send unsolicited email marketing messages to partners/staff of a partnership or a sole trader and its staff unless the requirements of paras 14.7 and 14.10  are met.

The Commissioners concluded there were unanswered questions as to list or lists of addresses supplied by B2B Data Lists. These questions centred on whether this was largely or partly a list of business e-mail addresses where the need for an opt-in depends on the nature of the businesses involved or whether this was a list of individual e-mail addresses where an opt-in is mandatory. This may have been an issue for all the parties involved but their ability to reach a conclusion was constrained by the limited information available and the limited extent to which B2B Data Lists was prepared to co-operate in the latter stages of the investigations.

Overall, the Direct Marketing Commission concluded that the company had breached key provisions of the DMA’s Direct Marketing Code of Practice on a repeated basis, that data was sold without proper regard for whether it met client requirements, that the company then sought through unacceptable terms and conditions to absolve itself of responsibility for this data, that refunds were refused or offered in last resort and clients and complainants treated poorly. It was a particular concern that this seems to be happening with considerable regularity with four separate cases and two earlier cases resolved informally and with three or four further approaches  to DMC by people concerned over the company’s practices or/and with complaints that might justify further formal investigations depending on circumstances.

In these circumstances the Commission decided that the appropriate sanction would be to recommend to the DMA, that B2B Data Lists/Data Providers UK are removed from DMA membership. This of course is subject to any appeal.

May I thank you for raising this complaint as it is only through cases such as yours that we can fully monitor the direct marketing practices of companies operating in this industry.”

 

I’d call that a result… Thank you to the Direct Marketing Association for demonstrating that there is a body out there that care, and will take appropriate action when necessary!

Little Chef and b2bdatalists.com’s response to my compaint about spam…

I recently wrote about some spam email I received from Little Chef. I wasn’t going to publish this email exchange, but to hell with it – this is dedicated to the Head of Marketing for B2B Data Lists Group who sold Little Chef the list that they used….

A personal word to the list broker – think very hard before threatening me with legal action for ‘harassment’ (or for that matter threatening me in any way) – My simple request to be informed where and how the email address in question was gathered is perfectly reasonable.

Frankly, my bet is that you’d get laughed out of court for describing my request as ‘harassment‘.  Your lack of understanding of the law can only be rivalled – in my humble opinion – by your complete and utter lack of professionalism. My complaint is against your business. Do you feel it either appropriate or professional to bully or make threats because I say something you don’t like about your business practices….?

Have you learned nothing in your “15 years of experience” (which you do so like to repeat)…?

We are all plagued by spam, most of it we can not trace – but when one like this comes along and it’s possible to research it’s origins and make a stand I will… I appreciate that I can be a bit anal (some may also say cantankerous or bloody minded) at times – but why the hell do you feel I do not have the right to know from where, and how you, your supplier and client took my email address without my consent?

Here’s the email conversation I’ve had with both Little Chef and the list brokers to prove my point so readers can make their own mind up…


From: Kids Eat Free [kidseatfree@littlechef.uk.com]

Sent: 11 April 2011 17:24
To: webmaster@xxxxxxxxxxxx.com
Subject: Kids Eat Free

Hello friend,

Why break the bank over the Easter

Holidays when it’s Kids eat Free at Little Chef?

It’s a brilliant deal…a grown-up buys a main course…a kid gets their main course free. Simple.

No vouchers to collect, no coupons to cut out – just turn up and tuck in.

It’s empty plates not empty pockets this Easter at Little Chef.

Pop in…we’d love to see you.


From: Alan Gandy [alan@xxxxxxx.com]
Sent: 14 April 2011 11:04
To: ‘customer.services@littlechef.co.uk’
Cc: ‘xxxxxxx@littlechef.co.uk’
Subject: FAO: Tracey Mulligan: Does the left hand know…

I have to say, I am more than a little perplexed by the amateur nature of your current email marketing. In addition to having virtually no targeting it breaches Data Protection legislation. Very surprised at that behaviour from a major brand such as yourselves.

https://lanzarotewebdesign.com/little-chef-puts-spam-on-the-menu/

Alan Gandy

PS: Receipt of this email does not imply any for of consent to be added to any of your mailing lists!


From: Helen Strang [xxxxxxx@little-chef.co.uk]
Sent: 14 April 2011 14:35
To: alan@xxxxxx.com
Subject: Letter from Tracey – Email Spam

14 April 2011

Dear Alan,

First of all… sorry. But let me thank you for bringing to my attention the fact that we sent you an email that you would have preferred not to receive.

As part of our marketing campaign to tell potential customers about our new restaurants and the “Kids Eat Free” promotion during the Easter holidays, we did buy a database of email addresses from a list broker which included business people as they become families during holiday periods and therefore may be interested in visiting a Little Chef whilst travelling throughout the UK. However, I appreciate that living in Spain, the information was of no interest to you.

You mentioned that we used an old e-mail address, if it is not too much trouble, could you let us have it so we can make sure that it is permanently removed from the database we used. We have already requested that your current e-mail address be deleted if it appears on any list used by our broker.

Again, please accept my apologies for having offended you and I am sorry that we didn’t get it right on this occasion. We strive every day to do it better and get it right, and your commentscan only help us.

Thanks for your time once again.

Best Regards,

Tracey

Tracey Mulligan

Managing Director


From: Alan Gandy [alan@xxxxxx.com]
Sent: 14 April 2011 15:04
To: ‘Helen Strang’
Subject: RE: Letter from Tracey – Email Spam

Dear Tracey,

I do appreciate your apology and thank you for that.

Clearly your list broker has been harvesting email addresses from the internet. By definition buying such a list and sending unsolicited email constitutes spam – which to the best of my knowledge breaches data protection legislation as outlined here

http://www.ico.gov.uk/for_organisations/privacy_and_electronic_communications/the_guide/electronic_mail.aspx additionally I would also imagine it may well constitute a breach of the terms & conditions of your ISP.

For this reason I do not want my address removed of the list. I would instead prefer it to remain in the hope that it can not be used again in this manner. As if I receive any more I will be reporting this to the ICO.

Please don’t take this action the wrong way Tracey, I quite like Little Chef as a brand. Most of us have some happy memories of our past travels associated with the company! If anything I’d like to think I am trying to protect the company from itself… In all honesty Tracey I can think of 101 better ways to get your message across via online marketing.

Regards

Alan


From: Tracey Mulligan [xxxxxx@little-chef.co.uk]
Sent: 19 April 2011 12:19
To: alan@xxxxxx.com
Subject: Reply from Tracey Mulligan

Dear Alan,

Thank you for your reply and I am pleased that you like the Little Chef brand.

As you will appreciate e-marketing is just one element of the marketing mix and it gives us an opportunity to communicate a simple message to consumers who may be interested. Clearly not everyone will be and they are invited to opt out from any further communication.

Our list broker has assured us that your email was collected in accordance with data protection rules. They work closely with the Information Commissioner’s Office to ensure that they do not do anything illegal on behalf of their clients and we have also contacted the Commissioner’s Office to make sure that this is the case.

If you would provide us with your old email address we will make sure that you are not contacted again.

Yours sincerely,

Tracey Mulligan

Managing Director


From: Alan Gandy [alan@xxxxxx.com]
Sent: 19 April 2011 13:45
To: ‘Tracey Mulligan’
Subject: RE: Reply from Tracey Mulligan

Dear Tracey,

I happen to feel very strongly on the issue of spam.

I have no wish to be a thorn in anyone’s side. But please allow me to reiterate how extremely unlikely it is that the email address in question could appear on a legitimate list.

1. It is a long standing domain name which has not been in everyday use for quite some time.

2. The email address is only in one place on the Internet, and the specific address was only set up about a year ago for this one purpose.

3. Even if it was in regular use (or I have made a mistake and used it), I always click the no subscription and no third parties options on any website.

4. I have not elected to receive email from Little Chef directly, so this email is by definition spam.

It’s my belief that you are a reputable company and would not knowingly break the law. However, it would seem to me that your list brokers are likely being untruthful about the source of this list. Unless they could identify how the list was sourced and prove my suspicions wrong I could not possibly even consider changing my view on this matter.

I won’t be providing the email address for the reasons I gave in my last email.

Regards

Alan


From: Tracey Mulligan [xxxxxx@little-chef.co.uk]
Sent: 28 April 2011 09:10
To: alan@xxxxxx.com
Subject: Response to your email

Dear Alan

We do take your comments seriously and I think at this stage I need to involve our list broker so that they can explain how they compile their lists.

With your permission I would like to give Steve James from B2BDatalists the contact details you supplied to us and asked him to contact you directly. I hope that they will be able to respond to your concerns.

Please would you let me know if this is OK with you.

With best regards

Tracey

Tracey Mulligan

Managing Director


From: Alan Gandy [alan@xxxxxx.com]
Sent: 28 April 2011 10:27
To: ‘Tracey Mulligan’
Subject: RE: Response to your email

Yes, you do have my permission Tracey.

Regards

Alan


From: Alan Gandy [alan@xxxxxx.com]
Sent: 16 May 2011 16:30
To: ‘Tracey Mulligan’
Subject: RE: Response to your email

I can’t say I am surprised – but I have not heard from your list broker.

Alan Gandy

Subject Unsubscribe
From Steve James | B2B Data Lists Group
To alan@xxxxxx.com
Sent 18 May 2011 10:17

Hi Alan,

Further to your recent correspondence with Little Chef your details have been forwarded for my attention on behalf of B2B Data Lists since we are responsible for the sourcing of data and any claim you feel appropriate should be directed towards ourselves. I have tried calling you a few times with no success.

To confirm, I have requested all emails to alan@xxxxxx.com are “unsubscribed” from our suppliers, however, please be aware that we are not a “data owner” and only have contracts with a few major providers in the UK and there’s well over 100 companies who could be selling your information as you can imagine.

Speaking from over 15 years industry experience, rest assured all legislation is strictly followed and no laws are broken when emailing a business email address such as this for a businessproduct/service. Your details do not require “opt‐in” (unlike consumer legislation) and you can be removed at any point in time by simply “unsubscribing” which I have now done for you and removed this record from the particular supplier’s database involved. Again, we cannot be accountable for other providers.

Could I request any future correspondence be directed to myself, although as far as I am concerned this is an end to the matter which I trust is acceptable since you are now officially unsubscribed from our suppliers database to receiving third party promotions.

I appreciate it is very frustrating and please accept my apologies on this occasion on behalf of this particular data provider.

Kind regards,

Steve


Subject RE: Unsubscribe
From Alan Gandy
To ‘Steve James | B2B Data Lists Group’
Cc ‘xxxxxx@littlechef.co.uk’
Sent 18 May 2011 14:53

Steve,

I don’t know if you’ve read my original emails to Tracey Mulligan. It would appear not.

Had you read them you would know that this email address is not the email address in question. You might also have read that my concerns were as follows;

1. It is a long standing domain name which has not been in everyday use for quite some time.

2. The email address is only in one place on the Internet, and the specific address was only set up about a year ago for this one purpose.

3. Even if it was in regular use (or I have made a mistake and used it), I always click the no Subscription and no third parties options on any website.

4. I have not elected to receive email from Little Chef directly, so this email is by definition spam.

Let me add to this, that the site from which the name appears to have been taken has NOTHING on it to indicate that it is a business website – it is simply a blog. Which I can only assume would make this matter fall under the consumer legislation you refer to….

This is not the end of the matter you might wish for in your email. I feel I am within my rights to ask where the original list was sourced, and the refusal to accept any responsibility both from Little Chef and yourselves in this matter is I feel at best unprofessional.

Regards

Alan

 

Subject: RE: Unsubscribe
From: Steve James | B2B Data Lists Group
To: alan@xxxxxx.com
Sent: 18 May 2011 23:48

Hi Alan,

I am sorry you feel this way, but I have to say you are wrong in your assumptions and B2B Data Lists is not in breach of any laws speaking from over 15 years industry experience and also after consulting our legal representative.

From a legal prospective, I think any judge would agree that Little Chef have bent over backwards to try and please you over an issue that is quite honestly not their fault since the responsibility lies with B2B Data Lists as the provider, but again no offence has been committed here.

We have apologised on behalf of both Little Chef and B2B Data Lists and given you the benefit of the doubt for any upset caused along with the agreement to unsubscribe you from the suppliers database. We simple cannot do any more and you are now in the eyes of any court seen to be unreasonable and therefore suggest that if you wish to take this matter further, it be done through the legal system since any further correspondence from yourself by email will be regarded as harassment and we will take the necessary courses of action against you for upsetting our client over a false claim, which tarnishes our reputation moving forward. Believe me, this is a far stronger claim.

This is my final email to you and as far as I am concerned this is the end of the matter. I hope you can be equally as reasonable and in return apologise to my client for the upset you have caused. If you persist in this manner, it will potentially backfire on you as I am sure you are now aware.

Regards,

Steve

 

Subject RE: Unsubscribe
From Alan Gandy
To ‘Steve James | B2B Data Lists Group’
Cc ‘Tracey Mulligan’
Sent 19 May 2011 10:04

Steve,

I find your command of the English language (prospective) almost as absurd as your blatant disregard for my concerns in this matter, this being compounded by your threats of legal action . I am more than happy to provide my address to you for your lawyers should you wish to pursue me on this ‐ good luck with that one!

However, I think you know as well as I do that the case for ‘harassment’ you may have suggested is spurious to say the least. I will not be intimidated by your threats.

No, I do not see this as the end of the matter ‐ I believe I am perfectly within my right to request details of from where this list was sourced and how I received spam from yourselves and/or your client, for all the reasons I have outlined to both you and them already.

Your threats bear no weight with me…. I find your attitude with this both threatening and unprofessional. Your representation of your clients reflects on their brand. Tarnished reputation: Your own doing. As for your demand for an apology, I have nothing to apologize for in highlighting the misuse of my email address by yourselves and your (apparently misguided, or ill‐advised) client.

Regards

Alan

End of emails (I have omitted email addresses as a courtesy!)

In conclusion: I have to say, I don’t really have that much of an issue with Little Chef – like so many institutions of its type I think they have little real understanding of how to use the online world for marketing, though perhaps it is time they got themselves up to date on best practices in my opinion.

I do however take serious offence when a company who deals in information and boasts (according to their website) clients like Asda, Audi, Toshiba, Honda, Axa and Volkswagen might be a little more professional… At the risk of repeating myself 🙂 I do not think it unreasonable to know where and how this list was obtained. And, I certainly do not think such a request warrants puerile threats of legal action….

I await my Super Injunction with bated breath…

 

Little Chef puts Spam on the menu!

We’re all used to the Viagra, Nigerian scams, make money fast and the other clearly recognizable spam we receive in the hundreds each day. It’s a fact of life – we’ve all learned to deal with it. But it seriously offends me when such recognizable brands as Little Chef start spamming me.

This morning I got unsolicited mail from Little Chef. The particular address that was used has not been used on a daily basis for a number of years. It has clearly been gathered from a website – there’s no doubt in my mind.

Is the Little Chef marketing department that inept that they are prepared to risk the reputation of the brand in this way? Are they stupid enough to employ third party providers to market them illegally? If they are, do they have any idea how these people are denigrating their name or are they leaving one of the ‘Johnny Come Lately’ internet marketing ‘experts’ (sic) to it without proper control?

Why the hell should I expend my energy clicking an unsubcribe link to a list I haven’t subscribed to! I know it takes a lot more energy but I’d rather spend my time writing this and reporting the abuse to their hosting company. I’m not one to just passively accept this kind of crap from such a brand.

At this point I have to admit though, I was quite partial to the occasional Little Chef breakfast when on the road back in the UK, though it’s very unlikely on any of my rare visits there I would avail myself of one now. Good advertising and marketing does not persuade me to buy, but, bad marketing like this does persuade me not to buy. For heavens sake Little Chef marketing department – pull your socks up!

And, just a little note on targeting for you…

“Kids Eat Free” is of little interest to me;

1. My kids are adults

2. I live in Spain

And finally, the Facebook page link on your website (which doesn’t appear to have been updated since July last year) doesn’t work. I wonder why that might be? Open complaints perhaps?

If you want some proper professional advice on how to market yourself effectively, and legally do give me a call. I’ll give you a couple of hours for free!

“You cannot transmit, or instigate the transmission of, unsolicited marketing material by electronic mail to an individual subscriber unless they have previously notified you, the sender, that they consent, for the time being, to receiving such communications. There is an exception to this rule which has been widely referred to as the soft opt in (Regulation 22(2) refers).” Excerpt from Electronic mail (Regulations 22 and 23) of the Information Commissioner’s Office website.