We Buy Any Car Ltd, a car valuation and purchasing company, was fined by the UK DPA for violating Regulation 22 of the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 (PECR) by sending unsolicited marketing emails and SMS. The ICO investigated complaints from individuals who received these unsolicited messages and found that WBAC had sent 205.5 million email messages and 16.3 million SMS between April 2019 and April 2020. Only 14.1 million of these messages were considered solicited by the ICO, while 191.4 million were deemed to be unsolicited marketing emails. WBAC claimed that they only contacted individuals who requested a vehicle valuation or on the basis of the "soft opt-in," but the ICO disagreed, stating that the messages did not meet the definition of a service message under its Direct Marketing Code of Practice.
The company used hard to cancel approach by making it difficult for individuals to unsubscribe from their marketing messages. Even when individuals attempted to unsubscribe, they were unsuccessful in doing so, which is a common use in the hard to cancel technique. Additionally, the company used a nagging process by sending multiple marketing messages to individuals who had not specifically requested them, which is considered unsolicited marketing. This nagging process is a common pattern used to pressure individuals into taking action, such as purchasing a product or service. However, in this case, the nagging process was used to encourage individuals to get a vehicle valuation and to continue using WBAC's services, which violated the regulations related to direct marketing. The ICO also found that complainants were unable to unsubscribe from emails and SMS, indicating that WBAC had used deceptive patterns like the hard to cancel and nagging. WBAC was fined around €234,000, and the ICO considered this to be a serious contravention of the regulation, given the large number of messages sent over the one-year period investigated. The ICO also concluded that WBAC knew or ought reasonably to have known that there was a risk that this contravention would occur and therefore considered this contravention to be negligent.