Are Eircom spamming?

Posted on August 12, 2006, under general.

There are almost no words. I’m plenty used to Eircom being one of the least pleasant, least competent and most monopolist excuses for a service provider I’ve ever had to deal with much, but now they’ve gone and taken the biscuit, and have started a spamming operation. (In this case, I’m defining spam as unsolicited commercial e-mail).

Harry Duncan wrote to the SAGE-IE list to pass on a link to to Eircom’s new e-mail marketer product, explicitly designed to help you easily send thousands of e-mails and hundreds of text messages, all from Microsoft Outlook.

I can find no mention of personal data protection or any introduction to the complex legalities of the area. As if that wasn’t despicable enough, two further things stick out to me from Eircom’s brochure. It talks about targeting “potential customers”. Not existing customers, or repeat customers, but potential ones. That’s not compatible with the directions of the Data Protection Commissioner. Companies are only allowed to send mass-mails to personal e-mail addresses if the individuals have explicitly opted-in to receive them or if they are someone with whom the company has an existing business relationship. Even then, people must be given the opportunity to opt-out, something this product makes no mention of whatsoever. And Eircom’s example templates do not include any opt-out option. Either they are misleading their own customers, or simply ignoring the requirement.

The second thing which sticks out is “All emails sent with eircom Email Marketer are fully trackable, with real-time reporting and full campaign management.” What does this mean? If they are trying to generate delivery reports using image requests and so on, they may very well be in breach of the Data Protection Act themselves. Some people consider that kind of thing personal information.

From the point of view of potential customers of this service, where are the assurances that Eircom won’t abuse your list of addresses? There may be a serious liability if this is compromised, and Eircom once had its own subscriber database compromised. Though the fact that this was ever made public is actually something they should be congratulated for.

But all together, this looks like a very, very dodgy product and a potential minefield. I’ll be bringing it to the attention of the Data Protection Commissioner on Monday. Oh, and if I were the Springfield Hotel, I’d be jumping up and down trying to get my “Customer Success Story” unlinked from that page. The implication that one engages in spamming can be pretty disastrous for business, and based on their story, they’re merely an innocent Eircom Wireless Broadband customer.

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