Promotional texts spark student outrage

Students have been angered by promotional texts sent to them from both UCD Ents and third parties. The students received the messages despite never giving out their contact details.

The third parties, including Dublin nightclubs Krystle and Citi Bar, have been sending out texts to students in recent months. Suspicions have arisen as regards the legality of the manner in which these organisations obtained the phone numbers.

One student told The University Observer: “Just today I received another text from Citi Bar, even though I have never set foot in that place. I have certainly never given out my number to any other club so they could not have gotten it that way. A friend of mine read somewhere that her Dad is her emergency contact on the SIS system and that on occasion he has also received similar texts, so it seems possible that that’s where they got them.”

The texts normally fail to include an ‘opt-out’ clause and are sent from a no-number facility, a fact which appears to place the organisations behind the promotional messages in direct violation of the rules and regulations set out by the Data Protection Commissioner of Ireland.

The University Observer understands that The Commissioner’s Guidelines on Unsolicited Direct Marketing state that if “a valid address to which you can send an opt-out request has not been provided” the sender of the message is in violation of Data Protection guidelines.

If individuals did not initially refuse the collection and use of those details, then the marketer is entitled by Data Protection Code to continue to send these texts. However this only applies on the provision that the receiver is given an option to opt out at the time of each subsequent communication. Prior consent is also a legal requirement for the purpose of direct marketing through any form of electronic mail.

UCDSU Entertainment Vice President Jonny Cosgrove defended the process whereby Ents collects phone numbers to which the promotional texts are delivered: “They all signed up to this in Freshers’ Week, all the numbers used are from this year’s Freshers’ Week and Orientation Week,” stated Cosgrove.

He added that an opt-out clause is provided with regard to Ents texts: “My e-mail actually went out in one of the texts. Anyone who wants to be taken off, all they have to do is e-mail me with the tag line or subject line ‘Please remove’ and if they put their mobile number into it.”

Cosgrove denied the allegation that third parties had received student phone numbers from the UCD Ents list: “I can guarantee they’re not coming from this year’s Ents office in any way.”

Cosgrove added: “As far as people getting texts from clubs, to the best of my knowledge, I don’t know how they work, I don’t work with them directly, [the numbers] are collected on nights out and stuff.”

Representatives from promotional group Platinum Nights stated “We have been collecting data for a number of years from different events in Krystle and Diceys over the years.” They added that if individuals send their phone number to them it would be immediately deleted from the database.

Citi Bar was unavailable for comment at the time of going to print.

Originally published in the UCD University Observer February 15th 2011

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