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HelloFresh fined over millions of spam texts and emails

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Food delivery company HelloFresh has been fined for sending millions of spam emails and texts to customers.

HelloFresh fined over millions of spam texts and emails
HelloFresh fined over millions of spam texts and emails

The recipe box firm was told to pay £140,000 following a 2022 investigation by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

It found 79 million emails and one million texts were sent out over a seven-month spamming campaign.

The ICO said it marked a “clear breach of trust”. HelloFresh said it had made changes to its SMS and email policy.

Investigations began in March 2022 after 14 complaints were made directly to the regulator, and another 8,729 were made to the 7726 spam message reporting service.

The ICO found HelloFresh continued to contact some individuals even after they had asked it to stop.

‘Barrage of texts’

It also found customers were not given enough information that their data would be used for marketing for up to 24 months after cancelling their subscriptions.

“This marked a clear breach of trust of the public by HelloFresh,” said Andy Curry, head of investigations at the ICO.

“Customers weren’t told exactly what they’d be opting into, nor was it clear how to opt out. From there, they were hit with a barrage of marketing texts they didn’t want or expect, and in some cases, even when they told HelloFresh to stop, the deluge continued.”

The ICO said the fine showed “clear and decisive” action would be taken if the law was not followed to protect the right of customers to choose how their data is used.

HelloFresh fined over millions of spam texts and emails
HelloFresh fined over millions of spam texts and emails

HelloFresh said its customers were “at the centre of everything we do” and that the company took its data protection obligations extremely seriously.

In contrast to the 14 complaints that the ICO said it received directly, HelloFresh claimed the regulator received just three.

“We have worked closely with the ICO,” the firm said in a statement. “We have carefully considered their feedback and have made changes to our SMS and email policy,”

A tough market

HelloFresh was founded in 2011. Members choose meals from a changing online menu and receive recipes and fresh ingredients in a box once a week ready for cooking. Subscribers are often attracted by deals with up to 60% off their first box.

The recipe box market is “very tough”, according to food retail retail expert Teresa Wickham, with competitors including Gusto and the Mindful Chef.

“It’s a highly competitive business,” Ms Wickham said. “Overhead costs, with labour, electricity and fuel to deliver, are high. But [profit] margins in horticulture and wholesale are quite low. It’s cut-throat.”

The former supermarket director said the ICO investigation would damage HelloFresh. “Any fine will hurt them,” she said. “It will affect their brand and their bottom line.”

But Ms Wickham said she felt sorry for the company. “Everyone knows their information is everywhere – this is the world we live in now,” she added.

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