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To tick or untick, that is the question

Fed up with receiving unwanted spam in your inbox?

Sky News producer Roddy Mansfield was. In fact, he was so fed up that he selected a victim, and took them to court.

Mr Mansfield had spent some time browsing the John Lewis website, and had registered for an online account with them. During the sign-up process, Mr Mansfeld noticed a statement that John Lewis would send him promotional emails unless he unticked a box.

Mr Mansfield left the box alone and, lo-and-behold, shortly started to receive promotional emails from the store.

Rather than simply amend his junk filter, or send them to his deleted items folder, or unsubscribe, Mr Mansfield decided to issue legal proceedings against John Lewis based on the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations.

These Regulations would have allowed John Lewis to send promotional emails to Mr Mansfield if:

(a) Mr Mansfield had notified John Lewis that he consented to receive them,

or

(b) John Lewis had obtained Mr Mansfield’s details in the course of selling products to him, and the emails relate to similar products.

John Lewis argued that, by not unticking the box, Mr Mansfield had consented to receive promotional emails. However, the Court found in Mr Mansfield’s favour, and said that in order to consent, Mr Mansfield must actively have done something (ie. tick a box) - simply failing to do something (ie. failing to untick a box) cannot be taken as ‘consent’.

John Lewis then argued that by creating an online account, Mr Mansfield had submitted his email address “in the course of selling products to him”. Again, the Court found in Mr Mansfield’s favour, and said that simply setting up an online account is not the same as buying products through the website.

John Lewis, therefore, failed on both counts and Mr Mansfield’s claim was upheld. The compensation awarded to Mr Mansfield has not been made public, but previous similar cases involved payments of between £800 and £1,300 (in the latter case, for just one single promotional email!).

John Lewis confirmed that they disagreed with the Court’s decision, but nevertheless apologised for any inconvenience caused to Mr Mansfield and agreed to abide by the ruling.

So, the next time you receive an unwanted email, just pause for a moment – consign it to the recycle bin, or follow Mr Mansfield’s path and perhaps, just perhaps, earn yourself a few bob and take your own small step on the road to reducing the world’s spam?

I’ve got 60 emails in my junk folder today – right, here we go…

 

These notes have been prepared for the purpose of an article only. They should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice.

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