About half a year ago I opted out of receiving the BT Phone Book via Junk Buster. Much to my surprise, I yesterday received the following reply to my opt-out request:
BT conducted an internal audit and have located details which suggest you requested to cancel your automatic receipt of the Phone Book from BT.
I sincerely apologise for the delay in responding to your request. The details provided within your email were not sufficient to allow us to ensure your "opt out" request was actioned.
If you would like to opt out of future editions of the phone book from BT then please submit the following details via email to email@example.com and we will ensure that your address is removed from our database.
Account No (If Applicable)
Address inc. Postcode:
I authorise my address to be removed from future deliveries of the Phone Book from BT.
The Phone Book Directories Team.
I find reference to "an internal audit" rather fascinating. You see, so far BT has always refused to acknowledge opt-out requests. This is a common strategy within the directory industry; by not acknowledging opt-out requests directory publishers aren't committing themselves to dealing with such requests. Of course this is poor customer service, and I imagine The Phone Book Directories Team got a right telling off when the auditors found it had failed to deal with the 10,145 opt-out e-mails Junk Buster has to date sent to BT.
It's not a secret that BT doesn't want people to opt out of receiving the phone book - otherwise they would tell people about the existence of its opt-out scheme - and so they came up with this drivel about not being 'allowed to ensure my opt-out request was actioned'. 'Drivel'? Well, yes. Why would BT not be allowed to stop dumping unsolicited directories on my doorstep without having my telephone number?
I spoke with BT's directory enquiries team this morning (0800 833 400, choose option 2), and they were as unhelpful as ever. They claim my telephone number is needed as a "point of contact", even though they already got my name, full address, and e-mail address. It's worth noting BT actually used my e-mail address to contact me - they were able to do so without having my phone number. When I mentioned this I was told collecting people's phone numbers is a "standard procedure". That was pretty much the end of the story, although I did get confirmation that people who don't have a telephone are not allowed to opt out of receiving the phone book. As said, it's drivel.
Data Protection Act
If you have received the same e-mail from BT, my advice is to not yet give BT your telephone number. I reckon the way BT handle's people personal details in this instance is a breach of the Data Protection Act 1998, and I've made a complaint to the Information Commissioner's Office (the body enforcing the Data Protection Act) about the company's practice. My suggestion is to await what the Information Commissioner's Office has to say about the issue. I'll update this blog and the Junk Buster website as and when there are more developments.
For information, the Data Protection Act 1998 states that "personal data shall be adequate, relevant and not excessive in relation to the purpose or purposes for which they are processed". It's this principle I believe BT is breaching. The company doesn't need to collect people's telephone numbers for the purpose of ceasing to deliver unsolicited directories. They already got people's names, addresses, and e-mail addresses - more than enough to comply with a simple opt-out request, I reckon.