ICO issues several fines for nuisance calls, ISBA introduces Code of Conduct for influencer marketing and Ministry of Justice establishes new expert group to increase confidence and standards in e-signatures, in this week’s round-up of UK techlaw news developments not covered elsewhere on the SCL website.
ICO issues several fines for nuisance calls
The ICO has announced fines totalling £495,000 to well-known companies that sent more than 354 million nuisance messages between them. We Buy Any Car was fined £200,000 for sending more than 191 million emails. It also sent 3.6 million nuisance texts. Saga Services Ltd and Saga Personal Finance were fined £150,000 and £75,000 respectively for instigating more than 157 million emails between them. Finally, Sports Direct has been fined £70,000 for sending 2.5 million emails. None of the companies had permission from people to send them marketing emails or texts. The ICO’s investigations into the companies were sparked by complaints from the public. We Buy any Car sent emails to people who had requested an online valuation of their vehicles. The ICO found that the initial emails sent after a valuation request complied with the law, but that subsequent emails which also promoted the We Buy Any Car service were unlawful because they contained marketing as well as being sent without consent. It sent more than 191 million emails between April 2019 and April 2020, plus 3.6 million text messages. Both Saga Services Ltd (SSL) and Saga Personal Finance (SPF) instigated emails using partner companies and their affiliates. They used data lists of people who had not given the companies permission to contact them. SSL instigated more than 128 million emails between November 2018 and May 2019 and SPF more than 28 million over the same period. The companies say they relied on indirect consent, but the ICO pointed out that this was not adequate. The ICO has also served them with Enforcement Notices ordering them to stop any illegal direct marketing within 30 days or face court action. Sports Direct sent 2.5 million emails as part of a re-engagement campaign between December 2019 and February 2020 with people they had not contacted for some time. They were unable to show any evidence of consent to contact the recipients.
ISBA introduces Code of Conduct for influencer marketing
ISBA has launched a Code of Conduct for influencer marketing, aimed at raising standards, smoothing relationships between industry participants, and delivering transparency for consumers. The Code has been driven by ISBA members who wanted to address the negative issues surrounding influencer marketing. It was designed in collaboration with representatives from talent agencies and a group of influencers and the aim is that it will become an industry standard. The Code is not a new set of rules and regulations but is a guide to best practice in influencer marketing. It aims to: deliver transparency by being clear on the need to disclose when an ad is an ad (and how – mainly by using #ad); by committing not to use photo filters and misleading editing techniques; and by meeting obligations to protect children and vulnerable groups. It also aims to enable authentic and effective influencer marketing by backing influencers to deliver their honest opinion on products; supporting their wellbeing, from mental to financial health; and always promoting diversity and inclusion, with zero tolerance for hateful content. In addition, it wants to improve brand/agency/talent relationships by setting out how all participants will work collaboratively on campaigns; agencies committing to play a key role in aligning brands and talent; and with clarity from brands on key performance indicators and from influencers on helping demonstrate return on investment. While not a binding legal document, the Code could be appended to legal contracts. As it launches, brands from across ISBA’s membership, talent agencies, and influencers have agreed to adhere to the Code in the hope that others across industry will follow suit.
Ministry of Justice establishes new expert group to increase confidence and standards in e-signatures
The Ministry of Justice has established an Industry Working Group of experts to improve standards, reliability and security in electronic signatures and other means of legally executing documents, and to address best practice in this area. The Group was set up following a recommendation by the Law Commission. Members are experts drawn from the legal, business and technology sectors. The Group’s terms of reference are: considering how different technologies can help provide evidence of identity and intention to authenticate when documents are executed electronically; considering the security and reliability of different technologies used to execute documents electronically; producing best practice guidance for the use of electronic signatures in different commercial transactions, focusing on procedural steps to be followed, evidence, security and reliability where documents are executed electronically; producing best practice guidance for the use of electronic signatures where individuals, in particular vulnerable individuals, execute documents electronically; considering challenges arising from the use of electronic signatures in cross-border transactions and how to address them considering potential solutions to the practical and technical obstacles to video witnessing of electronic signatures on deeds and attestation considering how these potential solutions can protect signatories to deeds from potential fraud and to make recommendations to government and others on proposals in areas where the group consider reforms should be made. The government sees the Group as playing an important role, alongside existing law reform projects, in ensuring the UK is a centre for legal excellence in developing the law to support and facilitate digital trade and commerce.