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Press releases 2002 -

OFT stops two more misleading data protection mailshots

PN 72/02    4 November 2002

Two more misleading mailshots for data protection notification services have been stopped following action by the OFT.

The OFT has obtained assurances from two sole traders, Chris Yewdall of Baguley, Manchester, and Finbar Fox of Lytham St Anne's, Lancashire, both trading separately under the name Data Protection Agency, that they will no longer issue their misleading advertisements.

The OFT considered both advertisements misleading, among other reasons because they gave the impression that they came from official bodies and that the businesses receiving them were under a legal obligation to register with the sender immediately at a cost of £95. They also failed to explain properly which persons were exempt from notification.

The action against the two traders follows court injunctions obtained earlier this year against DPARS Ltd of Manchester and Gary McNeish (both also trading as Data Protection Act Registration Service) and Data Protection Agency Services Ltd of Southport (also trading as Data Collection Enforcement Agency) and their director Michael Sullivan to prevent similar misleading advertising for data protection notification services.

While most businesses processing personal data are required by law to notify the Information Commissioner, the fee is only £35 and many small businesses that process personal data for limited purposes are not required to notify. Businesses can notify the Information Commissioner directly.

Welcoming the action, John Vickers, Director General of Fair Trading said:

'We will continue to work closely with the Information Commissioner and the trading standards community to crack down on advertisers who make misleading claims for data protection notification services. Businesses should be cautious about this type of mailing. If in doubt, contact the Information Commissioner.'

NOTES

1. See OFT press releases 35/02 and 39/02 for further information on previous OFT action against misleading data protection notification advertising.

2. The Control of Misleading Advertisements Regulations (CMARs) 1988 came into force on 20 June 1988 implementing an EC Directive on misleading advertising. The role of the OFT under the Regulations is to support and reinforce existing controls, not to replace them. The Regulations give the OFT the power to step in if the public interest requires that advertisements complained of should be stopped by means of a court injunction. More information on CMARs

3. The OFT can act only when a complaint has been received. To come within its scope an advertisement must be misleading (i.e. it must deceive or be likely to deceive and affect economic behaviour), and be published, in connection with a trade, business, craft or profession, to promote the supply or transfer of goods and services.

4. Details of whether or not you are required to notify under the Data Protection Act 1998 are available on the Information Commissioner's website at Information Commissioner's Office website or telephone their notification helpline on 01625 545740.

5. In this press release the functions of the Director General of Fair Trading (DGFT) under the Regulations are for simplicity described as the functions of 'the OFT'. The Enterprise Bill proposes to replace the office of the DGFT with the OFT, to which would be transferred the DGFT's functions.




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