back to article Halfords slapped on wrist for breaching email marketing laws

Bike and car accessory retailer Halfords has found itself in the wrong lane with Britain’s data watchdog for sending hundreds of thousands of unsolicited marketing emails to members of the public. According to the Information Commissioner’s Office, it fined the business £30,000 for dispatching 498,179 messages to folk that …

  1. Korev Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Wikipedia says revenue was £1.1 billion in 2018, a £30k fine is a minor cost of doing business for them...

  2. sitta_europea

    A minor cost of doing business, quite so. Sixpence per message compares very favourably with Going Postal.

    1. DJO Silver badge

      5p if they pay promptly. Well worth the cost I'd say, certainly not a meaningful "penalty".

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        Yep, they should at least be charged the cost of a first class stamp.

        And it's still not a penalty, and certainly not a punishment. Trebles all round!

  3. wolfetone Silver badge

    "The breach, however, was considered to be negligent rather than deliberate, hence the size of the fine was considered proportionate."

    I'm sure the last time Halfrauds were mentioned on El Reg, it was to do with any old clown being able to increment the order number through one of their websites and getting a total stranger's personal data? It was either an article or a commentard had spoke of it.

    The fact that the above story has been spoken about (I think they were contacted over it and did nothing), and now this, I'd have thought that being negligent was every bit as bad as being deliberate. The fine should've been bigger, as otherwise they just won't learn.

    1. gandalfcn Silver badge

      "The breach, however, was considered to be negligent rather than deliberate," Anyone believing that needs psychiatric help, or their finances investigating.

  4. Terry 6 Silver badge

    One of those places

    They ask for an email address when you buy anything.

    Sod that.

    1. Giles C Silver badge

      Re: One of those places

      You get that in quite a few places now, I always say no as I don’t want them to have the right to potentially spam me with marketing.

      I always give the minimum information, obviously if something is being delivered then they need the address, but if I am in the shop give me the receipt and I will file it away in case I have a problem with the item.

      1. Trigonoceps occipitalis

        Re: One of those places

        I find "bill.gates@ms.com" is usually accepted. I suppose I should update that address to the chairman of Halfords.

    2. hoola Silver badge

      Re: One of those places

      You don't have to give it......

      I am not sure why Halfords have been singled out like this. There are many other dubious companies based in the UK that send endless emails, even when you unsubscribe or didn't even give then the details in the first place.

      Things based around vouchers, deals, scams etc (Wowcher or GreatDeals), the list is endless but you never hear about then being fined.

      Or how about the websites that provide a pop-up alleging that you are the "millionth search" today in a pop-up that looks to originate from Google. People just click on this crap because it looks "okay as it is from Google" yet is nothing but data harvesting.

      1. Mike 137 Silver badge

        Re: One of those places

        "I am not sure why Halfords have been singled out like this"

        Most likely because, instead of actively policing such matters, the ICO relies on complaints, and there seems to be a threshold for number of complaints below which investigation is not triggered. This is of course a perfect recipe for failure, but it's going to get worse if the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill currently before Parliament gets implemented.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: One of those places

        A while back I had Currys ask me for email address when I was going to buy a vacuum cleaner - "for the warranty" was the reason given. I refused. The lady on the till said she the till would not let her proceed without email address - she even offered to enter her own! I declined and walked out the store without the vacuum cleaner. 1 lost sale.

        1. PhilBuk

          Re: One of those places

          I've had that at Curry's - we picked up the item, an air frier, and took it to the main 'Pay Here' till. No email required!

          Phil.

        2. Martin-73 Silver badge

          Re: One of those places

          oof, that's a bit rich

        3. trapper

          Re: One of those places

          We have that here in the States also. Solution? My Yahoo spamcatcher email address - which I visit monthly for a mass deletion. If they insist on a phone number, I give them the number for our State Attorney General's local office. One cheesy fraud deserves another.

      3. Martin-73 Silver badge

        Re: One of those places

        Halfords are the only retailer that routinely asks for your email address in face to face sales, that i regularly encounter. Sure, there are others... but halfords always sticks in my memory, i suspect because they're agressive about asking

    3. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: One of those places

      Sure, it's postmaster@localhost

    4. tel2016

      Re: One of those places

      "What's the best email for your electronic receipt?"

      That's how the cashiers are trained to obtain it. I just reply with:

      "A paper receipt will be fine"

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: One of those places

        e-receipt is great on 2 counts:

        1. most people are resigned and just give them the email (which is valuable, because it's certainly 'LIVE!')

        2. saves paper and toner, every little helps.

        re. asking for e-mail / postcode across Europe, shops, but also airports, I just give them THE look like I'm going to slit their throat right there, then I hold off a few seconds (weighting all for and against), sigh (decision-making process complete), make a forced smile (your lucky day, pal), and politely decline. Seldom have to bear them try again. The only thing that worries me is that this hapless clerk / 'assistant' is NOT. GUILTY. It's their fucking company bossess who were (rightly) sold the idea of BIG. DATA. Unfortunately, no point going on a rampage against their HQ, I'd never get through security guards :(

        1. Gene Cash Silver badge

          Re: One of those places

          A "no, thanks" without the theatre dramatics works fine, and actually shows you're a decent human being.

          It's certainly not the cashier's fault. She hates asking just as much as you do. It's not like she has the choice to stop asking. Try not making her day just that much worse.

          What got my goat was Barnes & Noble's habit of asking if you had a membership, then harping on how much you would save, then asking again, then asking "are you sure?"

          It was so bad I stopped shopping there for several years, and apparently so did everyone else. Several local B&Ns went out of business, and now they don't even ask.

    5. Martin-73 Silver badge

      Re: One of those places

      Indeed.... they ask for mine, i tell them no, if they push, and say 'it's just for the email receipt' they get fukoff@die.com ... because i once gave them my address, took a stern email to a supposedly private address within their corporate monolith to get my address removed (simply marking it do not send spam' wasn't acceptable to me)

  5. 20TC

    eReceipts

    Halfords were one of the first companies in the UK to offer to send you an e-receipt, i.e. an email, if you gave them your email address at point-of-sale.

    Of course that's quite helpful for high value items with decent warranty but also builds a nice database behind it. Under-time-pressure shop assistants probably didn't really have time to read out all the T&Cs associated and clicked 'done' to get to the next customer and then it snowballs from there.

    Spin on a couple of years and a marketing womble (working from home) finds a lovely database of emails with 'I consent' ticked and fires off the salvo....

  6. teebie

    What, "legitimate interest" doesn't mean "do whatever the hell you like"?

    I though it was supposed to be the marketing equivalent of hazard lights?

  7. ElRegioLPL

    Not only is £30k a disgrace, others will be looking to it now to factor it in.

    Bear in mind the ICO's press release even mentioned the size of Halfords, it gives a good indicator as to the level of fines that everyone else will receive.

    1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge
      Flame

      Indeed....it's not so much "don't send out unsolicited marketing emails because we could get fined" as "for only £30k we can spam half a million people with unsolicited marketing emails".

  8. Howard Sway Silver badge

    email urged the individuals to book a free bike assessment and redeem their voucher

    I bet it did. Imagine what the free assessment was like....

    "Hmmm, slight scratch on the reflector there..... brake pads worn down by a millimetre...... few other things..... yes, that'll cost, let me just add it all up for you, erm £49.99 total. And by an amazing coincidence, the government voucher will cover it all!"

    Presumably, the amount they received in these vouchers more than covered the fine.

  9. steviebuk Silver badge

    Blood

    Can we do the same for the blood donar people. During Covid I apparently had it but had no symptoms so was asked to give plasma. So I did. Got there and they couldn't get it (apparently not possible on everyone) so I went home. They then kept emailing me to give blood and every time I unsubscribe but a month or so later I get another fucking email from them. So despite saying they have removed you from their mailing list, they fucking aren't.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nag emails about reviewing a product or service

    They never has an unsubscribe, and will send multiple emails to you to do a review (Trustpilot based, usually)

    Now I am happy to give a star review, but nope, you have to then write some blurb on the product, and now trustpilot wants you to log in first, before doing this. I can't be arsed, quite frankly, unless I have something to gripe about.

    And if you don't do the review, they'll send you another reminder or two a few days later. And as these emails come from the vendor, and not trustpilot themselves, you can simply block the sender.

  11. Potemkine! Silver badge

    If 1% of the mailing was efficient, Halfords pocketed 4981 * £50 = £249,050 from vouchers only.

    In that case, a fine of £30,000 is an incentive to continue spamming people.

    == Bring us Dabbsy back! ==

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    taxes

    it's just a tax, and a small one. Businesses can get away with anything so long as they pay the tax/bribe/fee. This is called corruption. Nobody goes to jail, nobody get punished and the illegal activity doesn't slow down at all. Only people are criminals, companies are exempt from all but fines/bribes.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Information Commissioner’s Office

    is shit. Has been shit since the moment it was created. They know they're shit, but they don't care, because they do fuckall and get paid handsomely to show that 'the gov' is with little people. And whenever you get a whinger like myself, they turn around and say: but we can't do any more, complain to the current (past, future) government.

    30K sends the right message: carry on, nothing to see here!

    1. cpage

      Re: Information Commissioner’s Office

      I think just about all these government-funded bodies supposed to protect/help the consumer are useless and a total waste of money. Take Action Fraud, for example: has anyone ever found them to do anything useful when you report a fraud to them?

      My most recent experience is with the Rail Ombudsman, when I complained about trains being replaced by a rail-replacement bus, and then all buses cancelled. I drove to another station but my claim for petrol expenses was refused. The correspondence now has lasted over a year - still no result. I think it's a completely useless organisation - or does anyone know better?

  14. cpage

    Stopped using them because they want my email address

    I've simply stopped using Halfords because they generally won't give you a receipt, insist on collecting your email address. My last visit, some time ago, took a long time because first they tried to overcharge, and then refused to give me a receipt confirming that they had charged me the right amount. After an argument that lasted maybe 15 minutes I got my way, as I saw that there WAS a printer attached to their till, they just didn't want to use it.

  15. jollyboyspecial Bronze badge

    Until fairly recently if you bought something at a Halford store you were asked for an emails address "for your e-receipt" but that has stopped.

    Was that just a way of harvesting email details and pretending they had consent for marketing emails?

    1. Martin-73 Silver badge

      Yes it was, and interesting, i had to buy oil the other day and was also surprised at the lack of email address demand. Maybe the message DID get thru despite the paltry fine (bad publicity?)

      1. Martin-73 Silver badge

        it was a glitch, bought stuff today and got asked, i said no. no fight

  16. Fr. Ted Crilly Bronze badge
    Black Helicopters

    go in for a B14d

    on Sunday afternoon, get asked if I want to cough up an email for 'special offers'

    It's a sodding bulb overpriced but timely available thats all, no I don't want you to have my email, why would I.

    Seems I wasn't wrong then in retrospect...

  17. low_resolution_foxxes Silver badge

    I really dislike Halford's scummy approach to marketing and email harvesting.

    They started asking all customers if they would like to provide their email address so they can "send them the invoice receipt in PDF". No "would you like to sign up to our marketing list?" or anything, just an email address please sir.

    Do I believe it won't go into the Facebook email API to spam Facebook people with Halford's advertising?

    Do I believe it won't "accidentally" auto-enrol me into someone who has "declared an interest in Halford's marketing"?

    No. I am buying £20 of engine oil. You do not need my email address for that.

  18. mobailey
    Alert

    I received that email!

    I demand my 6p.

    -mobailey

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