American Express has been fined £90,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) for sending more than four million marketing emails to customers who did not want to receive them. Andy Curry, ICO Head of Investigations says the emails all clearly contained marketing material, as they sought to persuade and encourage customers to use their cards to make purchases. “Amex’s arguments, which included, that customers would be disadvantaged if they weren’t aware of campaigns and that the emails were a requirement of its Credit Agreements with customers, were groundless.”
The ICO says it began investigating the credit card giant following complaints received from Amex customers getting marketing emails despite having opted out from them, a breach of UK law. “Our investigation was initiated from just a handful of complaints from customers, tired of being interrupted with emails they did not want to receive. I would encourage all companies to revisit their procedures and familiarise themselves with the differences between a service email and a marketing email, and ensure their email communications with customers are compliant with the law,” Curry said.
The emails included details on the rewards of shopping online with Amex and encouraging customers to download the Amex app. During the investigation, the ICO found that Amex had sent over 50 million, of what it classed as servicing emails to its customers. The ICO revealed that for nearly 12 months, between 1 June 2018 and 21 May 2019, 4,098,841 of those emails were marketing emails, designed to encourage customers to make purchases on their cards which would benefit Amex financially. It was a deliberate action for financial gain by the organization. Amex also did not review its marketing model following customer complaints.