Utility company flouts data code

London Electricity is flouting the Data Protection Registrar’s (DPR) ruling which bans “piggy-back mailings” by including a magazine which openly promotes third-party companies.

The news comes as the DPR reveals legal guidelines which are expected to ban piggy-back mailings by gas and water companies.

The new magazine, called London Lights, will be mailed with bills to London Electricity’s 1.7 million customers. It includes promotions for Scandinavian Seaways, and voucher offers for Chessington World of Adventures. The magazine’s publisher, River Publishing, will also handle advertising sales, sponsorship and advertorials.

The electricity, gas and water industries all have clauses in their licences which forbid the use of databases for purposes other than supply or services which are relevant to it.

One utilities source says the magazine is in obvious contravention of the DPR’s recommendations. “If the DPR does not act on this one it will open the floodgates for everyone else to do it,” he says.

British Gas was prevented from issuing host mailings after Marketing Week revealed that it was contravening section 42 of the Gas Act by using its database to mail a Homemovers Welcome Pack, which included vouchers for The Mail on Sunday and Daily Mail (MW June 14 1996).

The DPR sought legal advice on this case which will be published this week.

A spokesman for London Electricity claims there is nothing in the magazine that contravenes section 57 of the Electricity Act. However, he says London Electricity has not consulted the DPR about the new magazine.

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