Yorkshire charity ordered to stop sending unsolicited texts after many were 'inundated' with 460,000 over Ramadan

A Yorkshire charity has been ordered by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to stop sending unsolicited marketing texts after thousands were “inundated” with messages.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) revealed Penny Appeal, a Wakefield-based charity, 460,000 unsolicited marketing texts over 10 days to 52,000 people.

Those who received messages had never provided their consent, or who had clearly opted out.

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The ICO is a UK data protection regulator, that works to protect the public from nuisance calls, texts and emails by investigating companies that contact people without their consent.

Penny Appeal ordered to stop sending unsolicited texts after thousands were "inundated" during Ramadan.Penny Appeal ordered to stop sending unsolicited texts after thousands were "inundated" during Ramadan.
Penny Appeal ordered to stop sending unsolicited texts after thousands were "inundated" during Ramadan.

The texts were sent between April and May 2022 as part of a sustained campaign over Ramadan, encouraging people to donate to the charity’s appeals.

Many of the texts urged people to pay their zakat, an obligatory donation to charity and one of the five pillars of Islam, specifically to Penny Appeal.

This resulted in 354 complaints to the ICO and the Mobile UK’s Spam Reporting Service. Complainants reported their requests to opt out were ignored and described the texts as “intrusive” and “unwanted.”

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The regulator has been engaging with Penny Appeal since 2020, after receiving complaints about a similar marketing campaign.

Following this the charity committed to improving its compliance with direct marketing law.

But the ICO continued to receive complaints of illegal marketing texts.

It was while the charity was under investigation the spam texts were sent over Ramadan, which led to even more complaints.

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The ICO has now issued an Enforcement Notice, ordering Penny Appeal to stop sending marketing communications without consent within 30 days.

Andy Curry, Head of Investigations at the ICO, said: “Penny Appeal inundated people with text messages with no regard for their consent or their right to opt out. This is unacceptable and we will act decisively to protect the public from unsolicited marketing texts. Despite providing advice and guidance to improve this charity’s compliance, we were left with no choice but to take enforcement action in order to protect the public.

“We know how important it is that charities are able to responsibly fundraise for good causes and help people in need, and we know many people wish to support them.

"We also appreciate that small charities may need a helping hand when it comes to understanding the law, and we are here to support them to get this right. But all organisations sending direct marketing messages are responsible for ensuring they have your consent. We want to reassure the public that we are here to help if you or your family are receiving unwanted spam or calls”

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