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Laura Hutton/

Vodafone, Chill Insurance, Hidden Hearing and MS charity guilty of unwanted marketing messages

Each defendant was told to pay €1031 in costs, with Vodafone receiving a conviction and a further fine of €500.

VODAFONE IRELAND, CHILL Insurance, a charity, and another firm must pay just over €1500 after customers complained about unwanted marketing emails and text messages.

The Data Protection Commission prosecuted the telecom and insurance firms, along with Hidden Hearing Ltd and the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Ireland, at Dublin District Court.

Vodafone Ireland were the only defendant with previous similar prosecutions.

It received another conviction, while the rest, first-time offenders, will be spared convictions if they agree to charitable donations.

They pleaded guilty to breaching the EC electronic communications privacy and electronic communications regulations, which can result in a €5,000 fine per offence and a recorded court conviction.

Assistant Data Protection Commissioner Antoinette Gavin led the investigations, which resulted in successful prosecutions in the cases heard by Judge Anthony Halpin today.

The court heard Chill Insurance sent an unsolicited text message to a customer, which did not feature a mandatory “opt-out” option.

Judge Halpin noted the company rectified the problem on July 29, 2021, within 24 hours of learning about the issue.

Four people complained about phone calls and emails from Hidden Hearing.

The defence said human error caused the problem after a staff member failed to observe the customers and ticked a box asking for no contact.

Pleading for leniency, the defence asked the judge to note that it was a reputable company employing 150 staff and providing 60,000 free hearing tests annually.

The Multiple Sclerosis Society of Ireland was prosecuted over two unwanted emails.

However, it apologised in court via solicitor David Stafford, who explained that the charity had taken remedial action.

Vodafone had one charge for an unsolicited marketing email to a customer, said to be caused by “genuine human error”.

Halpin noted they all co-operated with the data protection watchdog efforts to resolve the problems. Senior executives from the organisations attended court, who showed remorse and said that they treated the matter seriously.

Halpin ordered each defendant to pay €1031 in costs. Vodafone was convicted and fined a further €500.

However, Halpin said that while the telecom giant had some convictions and seemed like a habitual offender, that was not the case. He noted Vodafone had 2.4m customers and said the previous prosecutions were “negligible in the eyes of the court”.

Halpin said the other three organisations would receive the Probation of Offenders Act, sparing them convictions if they donated €500 to Little Flower Penny Dinners within a month. The charity helps underprivileged people in the Liberties area in Dublin.

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