Commission ready to investigate Groupon over customer emails
Published 04/08/2012 | 05:00
ONLINE coupon service Groupon faces possible investigation by the Data Protection Commissioner after it apparently continued to email customers even after they had specifically told the company to stop.
Groupon offers discounts on a wide variety of items if a minimum number of people agree to participate in an offer.
For example, a hotel can offer two nights' accommodation for the price of one. Groupon then earns a commission on every customer who books a stay with the hotel through its website.
The site makes most of its repeat sales by sending customers daily emails, detailing a number of special offers.
Yesterday's deals included a number of short breaks and anything from horseriding lessons through to laser eye surgery.
Customers sign up for these emails when they decide to buy an offer through the Groupon website.
However they can "unsubscribe" from the daily emails by clicking a link on the missives. When they do that, they get a message that "the email address . . . has been removed".
However, in a number of cases, the Irish Independent has learned that Groupon has continued to email customers or that the emails stop -- only to resume a few days later.
A spokesman for the Data Protection Commissioner said yesterday that it had investigated Groupon regarding this matter earlier this year, but would carry out a new probe if a member of the public was to make a formal complaint to the commission.
The spokesman added: "This is an issue because by 'unsubscribing' from the emails, the user is removing their consent for Groupon to contact them.
"We had a number of cases like this in February and we worked with Groupon to resolve those cases at the time.
"If this is still happening, we would certainly look at it again if somebody made a written complaint to us about it."
A spokesman for Groupon said users could contact it directly at firstname.lastname@example.org if it was "too much of a hassle" to unsubscribe themselves.
The incident is the latest in a long line of mishaps which have dogged the US company since it went public in New York last year.
Shares in the firm were priced at $20 (€16) when it listed on the Nasdaq in November and jumped to as much as $31 (€25) soon after.
Now, however, they are trading at just $6.50 (€5.25) a share, a decline of nearly 80pc from their peak.