Slap on the wrist for BSB

3 Dec 2007

The Data Protection Commissioner has reprimanded British Sky Broadcasting (BSB) Group over an apparent alteration of the terms and conditions governing the use of consumers’ personal data.

Last week the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner received a large number of complaints in relation to a letter issued by BSB Group. The letter purports to provide a basis for the company to pass personal details among companies in the BSB Group and to other unnamed third-party companies for direct marketing purposes, including by email and text message, unless the customer objects using a specified telephone number.

The Data Protection Office considers this practice totally unacceptable. If implemented as outlined in their notice, a clear breach of the Data Protection Acts in this jurisdiction would result.

The Office of the Data Protection Commissioner said it had contacted BSB Group asking it to write to all customers in receipt of the notice in the next few days to clarify the position. The company informed this office that the communication was not intended to alter customers’ marketing preferences.

An information notice clarifying this for customers will shortly be placed on their website and a pre-recorded message has already been placed on the company’s customer service number.

“Irish data protection law provides strong protection to customers in terms of the use of their data for direct marketing purposes,” said Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes. “I am determined that people’s rights in this area will be respected. My office will be following up with British Sky Broadcasting Group in the coming days to ensure that the rights enjoyed by Irish residents under the Data Protection Acts are fully understood and respected.”

The letter from BSB Group contained the following:

“How information we hold about you can be used –
By continuing to be a customer, you agree that any member of the British Sky Broadcasting group, which includes Marketing Contributions Ltd and any company which may succeed our businesses, may use and share the information you provide and other information we hold about you for account management, market research and the marketing of Sky’s and third parties’ products and services. This may include contacting you by post, telephone, email or SMS unless you tell us you don’t want to be contacted in any of these ways by calling us on 0818 719 819.

“We may also share such information with credit reference agencies and other companies including for use in credit decisions, for fraud prevention and to pursue debtors.

“If you benefited from an interactive discount contract from Marketing Contributions Ltd, (ie to get a free dish and box), Marketing Contributions Ltd can also use and share your information and information about your Digital Satellite System, with those companies that offer Interactive Services; and those companies may use your personal details for marketing and market research purposes relating to both these Interactive Services and associated products.

“Information held by the Sky group about you may also be shared with other companies outside the group, including for sales, marketing and market research purposes by such companies, unless you indicate that you wish to be excluded from such uses by contacting us on 0818 719 819.”

By Niall Byrne