ICO Fined Amex for Sending Emails to Customers Who Did Not Want to Receive Them

UK ICO fines Amex for unlawful marketing emails.

May 21, 2021, | AtoZ Markets -The UK Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has fined American Express Services Europe Limited (Amex) £ 90,000 for sending more than four million marketing emails to customers who did not want to receive them.

The ICO began investigating when it received complaints from Amex customers who were getting marketing emails despite having opted out from them.

The emails included details on the rewards of shopping online with Amex; getting the most out of using the card and encouraging customers to download the Amex app.

Amex had rejected its customers’ complaints saying the emails were servicing emails and not marketing.

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In particular, the ICO outlined that the marketing emails were designed to encourage customers to make purchases on their American Express cards which would financially benefit American Express, thus cannot be classified as servicing emails, and as such the customers had not consented to the receipt of the same.

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What Did ICO Say

The ICO said that for nearly 12 months, between 1 June 2018 and 21 May 2019, 4,098,841 of those emails were marketing emails, designed to encourage customers to make purchases on their cards which would benefit Amex financially.

The ICO alleges that this was a deliberate action for financial gain by the organisation, and that Amex also did not review its marketing model following customer complaints.

It is against the law in the UK to send marketing emails to people unless consent has been freely given, according to regulation 22 of the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003.

“This is a clear example of a company getting it wrong and now facing the reputational consequences of that error,” said Andy Curry, head of investigations at the ICO.

“The emails in question all clearly contained marketing material, as they sought to persuade and encourage customers to use their card to make purchases.”

“Amex’s arguments, which included, that customers would be disadvantaged if they weren’t aware of campaigns, and that the emails were a requirement of its credit agreements with customers, were groundless. Our investigation was initiated from just a handful of complaints from customers, tired of being interrupted with emails they did not want to receive.”

Amex Comments

A spokesperson for American Express responded: “Respecting our customers' marketing preferences is an issue we take very seriously.

"When the Information Commissioner's Office brought this to our attention, we took immediate action to address the concerns raised."


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