COMPLAINTS ABOUT SHOPS asking for email addresses from customers in order to send them ‘e-receipts’ have led to the Data Protection Commissioner opening an investigation into the practice.
The Data Protection Commissioner (DPC), Helen Dixon, said she has concerns about the practice, and has been undertaking audits to see if companies are using e-receipt data correctly.
She said in a statement that she is aware of this ‘e-receipt’ practice, and has “undertaken investigative work in this area”.
Dixon added: “There is no issue per se with a company issuing an e-receipt, but if the captured customer email address is used for the further purpose of issuing marketing emails without the consent of the customer, there may be a potential breach of marketing rules.”
The commissioner has evidence “to show that some data controllers are using email addresses captured for the purpose of issuing e-receipts (and) subsequently using this information to issue marketing material”.
Her office has received a number of complaints about e-receipts.
The data protection watchdog has been in touch with companies about the practice, and its audit team has “conducted a number of on-site inspections which involved a specific focus on the issuing of e-receipts”.
What can people do if they have concerns about being asked for their email address for an e-receipt?
According to the DPC:
- In essence, a customer does not have to give their email details to a retailer. It is optional and a person can simply receive their receipt in the normal way.
- However, if they do opt to receive an e-receipt and subsequently receive marketing material without providing consent to receive such material, they may complain to the commissioner’s office.
The DPC is currently drawing together its findings from the audits and investigations it has carried out in relation to e-receipts. It will be issuing a statement on its findings within the next two weeks.
The office is also developing guidance in this area which will be publicly available this autumn.
What are e-receipts?
Companies that issue e-receipts include Topshop, Clarks, Argos, and Shuh. Typically, the customer is asked at the point of sale if they could give their email address so that a receipt can be emailed to them. In most cases, a receipt or proof of purchase is also given to them at the till.
Topshop provides a way for customers to access their e-receipt if they haven’t received one, by using a code on their paper receipt.
Customers can use their e-receipt in order to exchange or return items, meaning that if a paper receipt is lost, there will still be proof of purchase.
An Argos e-receipt seen by TheJournal.ie contained details of the purchase, but also a link to an Argos email sign-up, and a link to a monthly prize draw.
The email also says:
“We will use your personal information to process your order and may, where appropriate, provide you with exclusive offers, by post, email, text, and telephone, from our group companies and from other companies with whom we work.”
It advises that the customer may opt-out of marketing communication by phoning its customer advisors on a specific phone number.
A Debenhams receipt contains all of the sale details, as well as a link to a short customer service survey.
It says at the bottom of the email:
“Debenhams has sent you this email using a third party company and the details you provided are solely for the purpose of providing you with your e-receipt.”
Written by Aoife Barry and posted on TheJournal.ie