Martin Lewis warns test and trace customers unlawfully pestered with marketing texts

Customers handing over ­mobile numbers as part of test and trace are being unlawfully pestered with marketing texts.

Consumer champion Martin Lewis complained a barber used his number to send a marketing message.

The MoneySavingExpert website founder said he was “shocked” when he got a text following a post-lockdown haircut last week.

The Information Commissioner’s Office has warned businesses not to hijack contact details taken for the Covid-19 tracing programme.

Mr Lewis said: “Slightly shocked to receive a marketing text from a barber. That’s not acceptable or legal. During my haircut I was asked for my ­number specifically due to Covid track and trace.”

A screen on a bus stop displaying a NHS notice on test and trace on Oxford Street, London

He said: “It’s wonderful you’re open. It’s great you’re being Covid secure, but please ask for permission before ­marketing.”

Mr Lewis said this was a breach of recent General Data Protection Regulation rules to safeguard consumer information.

But he said he was not going to make an ICO complaint because could harm the business.

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Businesses such as hairdressers and pubs are required to take customer details so they can be contacted and warned if a patron gets the virus.

The ICO said: “Businesses shouldn’t use information­ ­collected for track and trace for any other reason. We’ve produced simple guidance to help businesses comply.”

Its advice says: “You cannot use the personal information that you collect for contact tracing for other purposes, such as direct marketing, profiling or data analytics.”

In June last year the ICO fined ­telecoms firm EE Ltd £100,000 for sending more than 2.5 million direct marketing messages to its customers, without consent. The messages, sent in early 2018, encouraged customers to access and use the My EE app to manage their account and upgrade their phone. A second batch went to customers who had not engaged with the first.

In May secret details from the Government’s NHS tracing app were left available to the public online.

It was one of a series of blunders that led to the app being axed last month.

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