Just to be clear, we’re not talking about spam the delicious luncheon meat. Y’know, the meat that comes in a can; the meat encased in a jelly that even baffles scientists, including those who have cracked the human genome. No, we’re talking about the other spam, the kind that makes us want to punch walls, dropkick small furry quadrupeds, and intentionally forget to send our mothers flowers on Mother’s Day. That spam.
Late last year we reported how Papa John’s Pizza, the third largest pizza chain in the US, was facing a $250 million class action lawsuit for spamming more than 500,000 unsuspecting pizza lovers. Users, it seems, prefer their pizza with extra cheese and not extra junk in their inboxes.
That lawsuit has since been settled for $16.5 million, and it appears that consumers have had enough of marketers who assume that it’s okay to barrage you with unsolicited messages simply because you bought a slice of their pie. But governments like to send distinct messages, too, when it comes to badly-behaved marketers. Some nations have become the model to emulate, with nations like the UK, the US, and Australia being particularly noisy about what constitutes good behavior. Others, and we’re calling you out, Canada, have been a lame duck, preferring to quack rather than act. Here’s an idea for a minor change to your national anthem: “The true north weak and free.” It ain’t lyrical, but it sure is accurate.
And then there’s the venerable Emerald Isle. God bless you, Ireland, for making so many invaluable contributions to society, not least of which is Guinness. But who knew that the home of Saint Patrick, green beer, and the shamrock had such a bite when it comes to email spamming?
Several Irish newspapers, including the Kildare Nationalist and the Irish Examiner, are reporting that Four Star Pizza (Ireland) Ltd., one of the nation’s largest pizza chains, has been prosecuted for “sending unsolicited emails and had pleaded guilty at Dublin District Court to breaking data protection regulations.” Brought to the court following a probe by the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner, 30 charges were originally brought.
30. Think about that for a moment. The punch line’s coming. Of those 30 counts, 24 were eventually dropped, but according to both papers, the company faced criminal convictions if found guilty. And you thought Ireland was relatively benign. Perhaps you were thrown off by those cute little leprechauns. But that’s not the punch line.
Four Star Pizza pleaded guilty and was fined €4,000 (approximately USD $5,200). In a tremendously classy, “let’s all feel good about this” move, Dublin District Court Judge John O’Neill adjudicated that Four Star Pizza could avoid criminal conviction if it donated the aforementioned €4,000 to Temple Street Children’s Hospital in Dublin.
The company promptly paid the sum and presented a receipt. O’Neill struck out the case, noting that “the sum of €4,000 has been paid to Temple Street hospital by Four Star Pizza, this will benefit the hospital and the young people there.”
The punch line
Four Star Pizza certainly paid up for its infraction, but the story doesn’t really take on context until you understand the nature of their crime.
They sent six spam emails.
Yes, you read that right. According to the Irish Examiner, “the company admitted sending unsolicited emails to six people from October 19, 2011 until August last year.”
Yes, that’s one expensive pie, extra cheese or no. The gravity of the infraction shouldn’t suffer by the number, as ironic as it may be. Six spams or 600,000, the number is just that: a number. If even one person is unnecessarily inconvenienced because some marketing wonk thinks it’s his God-given right to contact you without permission, that’s one too many.
The tides are changing, and in a good way. We suffer every day from the inconvenience and sheer dangers of email spam. It’s bad enough that we have to deal with those who would rob us blind, given the chance. We don’t need the issue confused by those who think a door should be knocked upon simply because it’s a door.
Now, we can take all sorts of things away from this one: justice has been done; depending on the country (that is, as long as it’s not Canada), email, SMS and social media marketers are on notice; consumers are not going to take it anymore; and, enough is enough.
But the most important takeaway here?
Don’t mess with the Irish.