Bord Gáis in court over charity fundraising email

Bord Gáis was prosecuted yesterday by the Data Protection Commission for sending an email promoting a charitable fundraiser which ended up netting €150,000 for St Vincent de Paul.

The man who received the email complained to the commission that it was unsolicited and therefore in breach of privacy and electronic communications regulations.

The receiver of the email first complained to Bord Gáis Éireann and then went on to complain to the commission.

Sophie Moore O’Farrell, solicitor for the commission, prosecuted Bord Gáis at Cork District Court yesterday for the breach of regulations. The complainant had opted in for online management of his account and had opted out for online marketing.

Defence barrister Una Cassidy said Bord Gáis responded to the complaint promptly and informed the complainant it had made a mistake and offered him two tickets to a show of his choice at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre.

It informed him it would be sending him no further marketing emails. It also set out what steps had been taken to ensure that no such human error would occur in the future.

Ms Cassidy said the email was not in respect of any commercial or profitable venture and was a fundraising event which raised €150,000 for St Vincent de Paul.

The barrister said that very sophisticated processes had been advanced to ensure that unsolicited emails of this nature would not be sent out again.

She said that to illustrate how seriously Bord Gáis took the matter, two personnel involved in developing the process had come to the court to give evidence if necessary in mitigation of the plea of guilty to the offence.

Ms Cassidy said that after all of the steps taken by Bord Gáis to rectify matters for the future and address the concerns of the complainant the company was shocked to be prosecuted by the Data Protection Commission more than a year after the email was sent.

Judge Olann Kelleher said he accepted the unsolicited email had been sent in promotion of a charitable event and that the company had made a great contribution to the community.

He said that on payment of €750 to St Vincent de Paul he would strike out the charge, leaving Bord Gáis with no conviction.

The judge made similar orders in the cases against Keary’s motors of Kinsale Rd, Cork, which sent an unsolicited text to a customer in relation to a sale, and Cherryhill Inns trading as The Oliver Plunkett Bar in Cork City, for sending text and email promotion to a woman who complained she had not given permission for such promotions to be sent to her.

Tony Delaney, assistant data protection commissioner, said afterwards that the commission was satisfied with the outcomes of what were the first such prosecutions in the Cork area.


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