Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Livingstone's Transport for London breaking spam laws?

I've just received an interesting email from Transport for London informing me of some engineering works that are going to affects some bus services (click image on right for larger version).

Minor problems. First, I have no idea how they got my email address (it was sent to another address not the one for the blog). It's possible it was on some Oyster application form but then I always opt-out when I give my email address on forms.

Second - and more importantly - the rules are pretty clearly on the Information Commissioner's website that even if you didn't refuse and opt-out initially you are "given a simple way to opt out in every future communication." Can you see an opt-out option in the above email? I don't think you can.

How many other email addresses do TfL have on record that they are sending unsolicited emails to and not allowing an opt-out? Slightly more disconcerting, does Livingstone, as ultimate top bod at TfL, have access to this email list as the elections near?

19 comments:

Colin Moore said...
4 Mar 2008 12:36:00  

I've just got one as well - this time about the new route 415. No idea how they legitimately linked my email and address!

ianvisits said...
4 Mar 2008 13:04:00  

As someone who manages email databases, I also had a long argument with TfL over this very issue as I was getting two copies of the weekly engineering works email to two different addresses and wanted to remove one of them.

I should point out that I think the email itself is actually damn useful.

However, I was very concerned about how they got my details and why there was no unsubscribe option.

As someone who does some email marketing, I am also concerned that a major company was behaving in a spam-like manner which could damage the whole email marketing industry.

I contacted TfL and, presuming that they had my details from past correspondence - asked why they did not send an introduction email when they added me to their mailing lists, and also why they were not complying with UK legislation regarding marketing messages and unsubscribe options.

The reply - after some bouncing back and forth is essentially...

"The purpose of the email is obvious, so we do not need to introduce the service to you - and there is no unsubscribe option as the email is not a marketing message, but is a service message and hence not subject to the legislation which covers 'spam' emails".

I basically gave up trying to argue as they had investigated the matter internally and seemed to prefer to annoy people and evade the law on this matter than offer a simple and easy unsubscribe option to their customers.

If you contact TfL customer care they will manually unsubscribe you - but it is a damn silly way of going about things.

Anonymous said...
4 Mar 2008 16:18:00  

Quick Dizzy get the FBI and CID in quick. TFL have your email address. I'd write a letter to PM US president, NATO the UN. My god this could be the end of the world as we know it

dizzy said...
4 Mar 2008 16:56:00  

Does being a dickhead come naturally or do you practice?

JAYMASON said...
4 Mar 2008 19:33:00  

Apparently Lee Jasper has quit according to Guido (sort of off thread but topical with the TFL)

Anonymous said...
4 Mar 2008 20:45:00  

Oyster info is regularly misused by hizonors office. The met also use it.

Whistleblower

Anonymous said...
4 Mar 2008 20:45:00  

dizzy said...
Does being a dickhead come naturally or do you practice


Nice reply Dizzy.

And some say that the Tories are no longer nasty... I bet to differ

Ed said...
5 Mar 2008 00:16:00  

I have had a couple of arguments with TFL and I'm sorry to report that they take the monopoly provider attitude of "we are doing you a service, let us get on with it" not the competitive enterprise attitude of "the customer is always right".

Back Boris.

jm said...
5 Mar 2008 03:25:00  

That was all the Oyster card was ever meant to be. Like your Tesco Clubcard, it was just a bribe to give up all your personal details.

Iain Dale's Rabbit said...
5 Mar 2008 07:11:00  

I suspect anonymous @16.56 follows your lead Dozy and practices, practices, practices. It just comes much more naturally to you than others.

Bretwalda Edwin-Higham said...
5 Mar 2008 07:35:00  

There's prima facie that this is spam.

Anonymous said...
5 Mar 2008 08:50:00  

Transport for London is an organisation which regards compliance with the Law as an option, not an obligation. Look at the weay they intimidate people over the Congestion Charge. Some of their practices - seizing expensive cars when enforcing small claims, for example, are quite illegal.

dizzy said...
5 Mar 2008 09:07:00  

To the anon regarding nastiness. If I was being nasty I would have called him a malodourous turd who I hoped got breast cancer and died in horrible pain after it spread to his bones. Of course, I'm not a Tory, but we won't let my non-membership of a political party get in the way of your comment. No please excuse me, I have to go and kick some dirt in the poor peopel's faces.

Pete Chown said...
5 Mar 2008 11:27:00  

Unfortunately I believe TfL are right: it's not a marketing message and so it isn't covered by the spam laws. On the other hand, once you've told them that you don't wish to receive future copies, there's an argument that they are making unauthorised access to your computer system contrary to the Computer Misuse Act.

Getting this enforced would be difficult. Now the Computer Crime Unit has been swallowed by SOCA, the enforcing authority for the CMA is your local plod. Good luck explaining to someone in your local police station why you think sending an email was a breach of the CMA...

What's funny, though, is that TfL will soon find that they can't email anyone who has an account with a large mail provider. AOL are particularly diligent about this; it only takes a few people to hit the "Report Spam" button, and the sender will be unable to mail anyone at all.

Anonymous said...
5 Mar 2008 23:18:00  

D0 U WANT A BIGER PEN15?!?

CLIK THE LINK

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EEES CHEEPER THAN VI4gr4..

Thisiss NT SPAM

wheelyweb said...
15 Oct 2008 23:36:00  

I've moved to Sydney and no longer need these information messages, and it is not easy to contact TFL. anyone advise me on the best route to contact them? They don't make it easy.

And as for the "not a marketing message but a service therefore no unsubscribe is required" bullshit, telling us it is not required by law is no excuse, it is POLITE to do so. shitting in my mailbox with no recourse to let me show you the door is simply rude behaviour! Allowing me to decide myself what "service" I want to subscribe to is good customer relations.

Pants, I say!

wheelyweb

Marty said...
10 Mar 2009 11:12:00  

You could just email the member of TfL staff who "signed" the email each time you get one.

Seeing as the weekly email I get comes from "Vernon Everitt" I had no hesitation in guessing his email and writing directly to him!

So, to opt out of the weekly message, email Vernon.Everitt@tfl.gov.uk and ask him nicely to do it for you. I assume he's ok with that, otherwise he'd have had an unsubscribe link included in the e-mail he had sent out? :-)

M.

Dan King said...
25 Mar 2009 11:04:00  

I'm getting these as well and finding them very annoying!

Can I suggest that everyone who gets these and doesn't want them emails Vernon.Everitt@tfl.gov.uk and also enquire@tfl.gov.uk every time one arrives?

If enough people do this, surely they'll get the message and add an unsubscribe option eventually!

Anonymous said...
24 Aug 2009 15:00:00  

I live in New York City, and have zero interest in these emails. I happen to have a pretty generic name, so I suspect that they used some database matching service that turned up my email. I have sent emails, but can not get my name removed from this list.

I work in digital, so know that what they are doing is considered SPAM, but unfortunately there is no legal recourse since they are not a profitable business.


 

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