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Data protection rules

Is there an obligation to be transparent on use of personal data?

Q:  I am the manager of a restaurant.  When someone books a table at our restaurant, they normally provide us with their mobile number to confirm the booking.  The owner of the restaurant has told me that we should store these mobile numbers and use them for marketing purposes to text customers about any special offers we may have on certain dates, e.g. Valentine’s Day.  Are we able to do this under data protection laws, or do we need to have some sort of explicit permission from our customers in advance?  I may be barking up the wrong tree, but I just wanted to check whether this is permitted?

A:  You are certainly right to check whether this would be permitted.   Under data protection and electronic communications laws, if you collect personal data (e.g. the mobile phone number of customer) for marketing use as well as processing it fairly and lawfully, there is an obligation to be transparent, i.e. explain why and how you wish to you to use an individual’s personal data and get their consent to receive marketing texts. Not doing this is a breach of the data protection and electronic marketing laws and liable to prosecution and/or a substantial fine.

If you would like to send special offers to customers via text message I would recommend that you explain why you want to use the customer’s mobile phone number at the outset and obtain their consent. You should keep records of the consent and ideally consent should be in writing (to demonstrate compliance in the event of a complaint).  Once you have consent you may send your special offer text messages and make sure the option to ‘opt-out’ is provided in every text message.

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