Wednesday 18 October 2017

Phone companies fined for privacy breaches

Tom Delaney: data protection
Tom Delaney: data protection
Luke Byrne

Luke Byrne

A DRUG addiction counsellor who has suffered from death threats in the past, was subjected to unannounced and unsolicited phone and house calls by an Eircom sales agent.

The woman's case was one of a number of actions taken by the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner against communications companies for their marketing practices.

Eircom, Vodafone, 02 and Meteor have been forced to pay a combined €48,000 in fines and charitable donations after admitting to a litany of legal breaches.

Tony Delaney, Assistant Data Protection Commissioner, told the Dublin District Court about one incident in which a drug addiction counsellor received a call on her landline.

At the time the house was being minded by the woman's mother, who told the Eircom agent that the counsellor would be back at around 6pm.

"At around 7pm there was a knock at the front door," Mr Delaney told the court.

He said that the complainant, who was no longer an Eircom customer, did not want her address known because she worked as a drug counsellor and had received death threats in the past.

In response, lawyers for the company apologised and said that agent had not been asked to call the woman. He has since left the company.


In total, Eircom pleaded guilty to two charges and was fined a total of €3,000.

Meteor was fined a total of €6,000 by Judge John O'Neill. Its two charges involved sending people, who had "opted out" of the service, marketing messages.

In one case the court heard that such a message was sent on December 4 last year, just one day after Meteor had to face a prosecution for similar offences.

Vodafone admitted to 11 separate charges, two of which the judge highlighted as serious, including one where the company provided the commissioner with incorrect information.

Mr Delaney said that more than one million people have joined the national opt-out register for telephone marketing, while just 250,000 people are not on it.

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