Q: I work for a florist. My boss told me I should start making a list of mobile phone numbers given by customers when they place an order so that we can text them with special offers at certain times of the year such as Christmas, Valentine’s Day etc. I am not comfortable with this as I’m sure it contravenes Data Protection laws and we would need to get the customers’ permission first. Am I right?
A: You are absolutely right. When collecting personal data from customers, such as their mobile or home phone numbers, physical address or email address, you must be completely transparent about how you intend to use the information.
Under data protection and electronic communications laws, you have a legal obligation to use personal data purely for the purposes for which you received it, i.e. for contact purposes for a customer’s order. If you wish to use the information for any other purpose, for example to send marketing texts, you must inform the individual concerned upfront and seek their consent.
If you use personal data for purposes other than the use that you obtained it for then it is a breach of the data protection and electronic marketing laws and you can be prosecuted and may have to pay a substantial fine. If your boss wants to send customers information by text about special offers then you need to ask them about this at the initial point of contact and obtain their formal consent. Even then you should keep a written record for compliance purposes in the event of a complaint and you should always include an ‘opt-out’ with every marketing text you send.
A solicitor will be able to assist you with the drafting of any changes to your order forms and other standard commercial documents to cover these points