I fought the spam pests and won! (But I had to go to court to do it): Michael Green fought a 14-month legal battle after receiving unsolicited emails
- Michael Green hit back after receiving three unsolicited emails within days
- He complained to the offending company, starting a 14-month legal battle
- A judge ruled in his favour and ordered the firm to pay him £150 in damages
We all find spam emails irritating, but most of us just delete them and move on.
However, after receiving three unsolicited emails within days, Michael Green decided to complain to the offending company.
It would be the start of a 14-month legal battle that proves you can fight back against spam mail — and win.
Victory: Michael was pestered with unsolicited emails but decided to take the offending company to court
Londoner Michael used online jobs firm CV Library to apply for a web developer job in May last year.
After getting an email advertising a host of other jobs, he tried unsubscribing, but couldn’t find an option on the message.
In a letter seen by Money Mail, CV Library explained that when users register with the website as a jobseeker, it collects personal information, such as their name, contact details, the type of work they are looking for and CV.
It said it then uses this personal data to send job alerts and emails about courses relevant to their interests. The firm insisted it had acted lawfully and followed the correct procedure.
But Michael disagreed — and unfortunately for CV Library, the computer programmer is also an expert in consumer lawsuits having run a company dealing with class action court cases.
In June last year, Michael wrote a ‘pre-action letter’ warning the firm it had breached regulations by sending the emails and that he would be seeking damages.
He launched court proceedings the following month by filling in an N1 form, which allows you to make a claim against a person or organisation to settle a dispute, and sending it to the County Court Money Claims Centre.
This June, Michael attended a county court hearing, where he argued that CV Library had not made it clear how his details would be used after he applied for a job.
According to the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations, firms must not send marketing messages to people without consent
He said he had not been expecting any further communication from the firm and did not sign up to receive emails.
Finally, in August, the judge ruled in his favour and ordered CV Library to pay £150 in damages, £285 court fees and £95 to cover his lost day’s wages — a total of £530.
Michael says: ‘Firms cannot hide their terms and conditions and must be upfront about how your information will be used. People must give their explicit consent. It’s not OK to hide it.’
According to the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations, firms must not send marketing messages to people without consent.
Matthew Cole, head of data protection law at Prettys Solicitors, says everyone has rights to choose how their information is processed.
To stop marketing emails, look for an unsubscribe option. If there isn’t one, contact the company and ask to be removed from the list.
Mr Cole says: ‘Customer information is valuable and lots of firms are reliant on holding on to their databases.
CV Library may argue it has a legitimate reason to send customers emails, but the court takes a hard view of this.’ You can write asking a company to stop processing your data under the Data Protection Act.
The firm must act on this request within 30 days. Mr Cole says you could also make a Subject Access Request to find out what personal information the firm is storing.
If they do not respond, you can complain to the information watchdog the Information Commissioner’s Office.
CV Library has refused to comment, but says its terms and conditions are on its website.
How you can do it…
- Complain to the company concerned. It is much better to try to reach a resolution.
- If you’re getting nowhere, complain to the ombudsman. This could be the Financial Ombudsman, Energy Ombudsman or Legal Ombudsman.
- Provide evidence such as emails, phone logs and letters.
- You can complain to data regulator, the Information Commissioner’s Office — but it cannot award damages.
- If you’re confident of your case, you can go to court. Print off an N1 form (gov.uk/government/publications/form-n1-claim-form-cpr-part-7), which allows you to make a claim to settle a dispute. State what you are claiming for and why. If it is under £10,000 you can also use the Government’s online service moneyclaims.service.gov.uk.
- It can take up to a year and cost a few hundred pounds in fees. You can recover the court fees if you win, but not costs if you use an adviser.
- It can be stressful so you may want to speak to Citizens Advice beforehand.