The ICO’s Views On FIO Requests

As you can imagine, I have to do a considerable amount of research with regards to the intricacies of email marketing in order to validate what I post on here. I’ve recently spent time on the Information Commissioners Office website, . During periods of change, it’s almost a second home for me as it is a well-resourced source of advice and information, allied to refreshing legal clarity. Two points were raised in a recent newsletter which you should find useful.

Leaving the headlined FIO requests to later, one feature referred to domestic housekeeping which anyone with an email marketing list could do well to follow. The question asked was, “Do you still want to receive the ICO newsletter?” It offered the following options: unsubscribing immediately which would result in being removed from the lists ‘immediately’; not answering before a set date which would result in being removed from the lists at that time; and continuing to be on the newsletter list, which required clicking through to the authorising page.

This will, probably, have the effect of reducing the number of subscribers to their newsletter list. It will also have the effect of making those who remain on it much more pertinent and, probably, more responsive. Something for everyone in email marketing to emulate.

A subsequent feature on the newsletter was an article on Freedom of Information. This is often seen by those in email marketing as the bane of their life, and possibly for good reason. However, it is not all one way and in every interface with customers there’s always a chance of improving the relationship. There is a reference to a short but interesting Blog by the director, and a list of recent actions the ICO has taken regarding the issuing of ‘decision notices’ following a lack of action on FOI requests. Despite the rather boring headline, it is worth reading.

While the section covers public authorities, it gives an insight to the likely timescale for processes when the ICO receives such complaints regarding our inaction on similar matters. The report was dated 22 March 2022. Here is the timeline:

14 December 2021; the complainant writes to a school requesting copies of committee minutes. The email was clear, precise, and listed five specific headings. The lucidity gave the impression that they would not be messed with.

2 February 2022; the complainant re-sends the request as they had not received acknowledgement of the initial correspondence. By return the school stated they had not received the original request.

28 February 2022; after the complainant contacted them, the ICO ask for a response within 10 working days. The school failed to do so.

The ICO responded with another, this time quietly threatening, demand for a response. That legal action would follow was implicit.

If you know the times mentioned in the laws, you will see the ICO were quite flexible. Whether this applies in general to email marketing companies is not specified, but it is clear that it is best not to ignore the ICO when clear demands are made.

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