DPR keeps the heat on British Gas

The Data Protection Registrar (DPR) has refused to back down in a dispute with British Gas Trading (BGT) over its attempts to commercially exploit its customer database.

The DPR issued an enforcement order against BGT, effectively preventing it from passing on details to other companies wishing to target its millions of customers.

The database watchdog insists dominant utility suppliers must obtain positive consent from customers to pass on or exploit data, rather than offering them the opportunity of opting out. BGT has 28 days to appeal against the decision.

Centrica, BGT’s holding company, expressed its disap-pointment with the decision. It argues a recent leafleting campaign, offering customers the chance to opt out of direct mail offers from other advertisers, gave consumers enough protection.

According to Centrica: “By providing data protection leaflets, BGT has done more than any other utility to ensure that all of our 19 million customers understand their rights under the Data Protection Act, and how these rights can he exercised.”

But Elizabeth France, data protection registrar, has rejected Centrica’s arguments, insisting that BGT can only use personal data “for the supply of gas or for the marketing of goods and services which are directly associated with this supply”.

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