The Data Protection Commissioner initiated proceedings against telecommunications companies, eircom, now trading as eir, and Imagine Telecommunications, in relation to breaches of direct marketing rules.
 
Counsel for eir pleaded guilty to six charges of making unsolicited marketing phone calls without consent and one charge of sending a marketing SMS to over 11,000 customers without an opt out message. Assistant Commissioner Tony Delaney, who investigated the complaints, told the Court that the calls were numerous and an “unwanted intrusion” into the privacy of those affected. Separately, Imagine Telecommunications pleaded guilty to one charge of making an unsolicited marketing phone call without consent.

eir was ordered to donate €15,000 to Pieta House, €10,000 to Laura Lynn and €10,000 to Our Lady's Children's Hospital, Crumlin following which the Probation of Offenders Act will be applied. This sum represents the highest financial imposition enforced on any company in relation to marketing offences under the ePrivacy Regulations.

Imagine Telecommunications was ordered to donate €2,500 to Merchant's Quay Ireland.

The defendants also agreed to cover the costs incurred by the Office of the Commissioner in bringing the prosecutions.

Speaking after the proceedings, the Commissioner, Ms Helen Dixon, said: “Data protection is about the citizen's fundamental right to privacy. My Office treats offences in relation to electronic marketing extremely seriously, vigorously prosecuting repeat offenders. The significant sums imposed today send a clear message that this type of marketing without consent is unacceptable.”

While most of the focus recently has been on international data protection issues following the invalidation of the Safe Harbor programme (see our article here), the latest prosecutions are a timely reminder to Irish businesses to maintain focus on data protection compliance matters closer to home.