Whenever you enter your personal details online, they’re captured by companies which seem to sell this data on to other firms. But are companies clear enough about how your data can be used for marketing?
Whatever you think about marketing, it serves a purpose. If it didn’t lead to sales, then retailers, utility companies, phone contractors and financial providers wouldn’t spend so much time and money on slinging adverts in our direction.
And it’s a problem that can get worse and worse. Here’s how: say you visit a comparison site and enter your details to get a quote. Under the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECRs) this site is allowed to send you e-marketing messages unless you opt-out via something like a tick box.
The site can also pass your details on to other companies for marketing, but your active consent must be obtained before this can happen – i.e. you’ll have to opt-in to this.
Breaches of privacy law
Unfortunately, not everyone plays by these rules. Our latest investigation found that some car insurers (like More Than, Esure and the Post Office) cover all email marketing, whether it’s from themselves or other companies, in one sentence. The onus is then on you to opt-out.
This would be in breach of the PECRs if you subsequently received email marketing from other companies. We contacted all insurers we thought had breached aspects of the regulations, with More Than saying it always aims to ensure policies are fair and clear. Esure and the Post Office said they don’t pass data to other companies for marketing, with Esure adding that it would make significant changes to the wording on its site.
For the likes of you and me, this could mean our personal details are floating around the ether for all manner of companies to use. Given the data they have access to – which includes your name, address, what car you drive, your shopping habits – this is weighty stuff, and could be worth thousands.
Even when it comes to a company playing by the rules and contacting us with its own marketing messages, there appears to be great confusion over how to opt-out. When we surveyed over 1,600 members, 86% said they’d like to see standard wording for opting out of marketing. In the meantime, if you’d like to opt-out of all manner of marketing messages, here’s how…
Five ways to opt-out of marketing messages
- Mail, text and phone – Register with the free Mail Preference Service and Telephone Preference Service, or call 0845 703 4599
- Fax – Register with the free Fax Preference Service online or by phone: 020 7323 4322
- Email – Click on ‘unsubscribe’ links in emails. If you still receive marketing, contact the company quoting section 11 of the Data Protection Act, or you can report them to the Information Commissioner’s Office.
- Unaddressed post – Register via Royal Mail to opt-out of unaddressed junk mail
- Electoral roll – Your local Electoral Registration Office can remove you from the edited register. This won’t take you off the full register, just one that marketing companies use.
Do you think you’re given enough control of your personal details? And are companies clear enough about how your data may be used for marketing purposes?