What PC World are doing with <B>your</B> personal data
At a time when everyone is screaming at us to keep our personal information secure, you have to wonder why PC World expects us to share our details within earshot of a queue of customers.
Why do they need to know whether your purchase is for personal use or business? Why are you asked for your name and address regardless? And what happens if you tell the pimpled 18-year-old trainee on the till to politely do one?
You'd like to know too, right? Good. I fired off an email to parent company DGSi and asked just that. Here's the reply I received back and I think you'll agree, it's a doozy:
If a customer asks why their name and address is required there is an explanation that appears on the Data Protection notice displayed at till points in store. It is a legal requirement to take the customer's name and address when they purchase any of the items listed below :
Set-top Boxes (Sky, Freeview)
Computers fitted with electronic broadcast cards (TV cards)
TV Cards on their own
The Duty Manager must explain to the customer that we cannot sell the item(s) unless the customer provides a name and address. It will be explained to the customer that if the objection is based upon a wish not to receive direct marketing that this wish will be honoured and recorded. This is done by selecting the "No Marketing" tick box.
If the customer still refuses to give their name and address the sale cannot be completed.
If the customer refuses to give a name and address on a transaction that does NOT contain any of the products listed above, they can opt out of receiving any marketing but we would point out that by giving their details it would assist in tracing a receipt should it get lost, and would ensure they are contacted should their product have an important safety issue.
Read it again, just so you're crystal clear what's going on here: PC World are opting people into marketing mailing lists without permission. The email is quite specific; unless you ask why you need to give the information, nobody will explain what it will be used for.
Worse still, when you submit your details under the Wireless Telegraphy Act (if you're buying a television or recording equipment, the Government want to know about it) that information is being skimmed and used for marketing, under the guise of requiring it by law.
If this is how PC World are operating, it's clearly a violation of the Data Protection Act. So what can we do about it? Well, let's start by complaining. Send an initial email to firstname.lastname@example.org; if you're unhappy with the response, the next stop is the Information Commissioner's Office, an independent authority set up to protect personal information.
What's your experience with PC World? Has the manager or any other member of staff explained why they require your name and address before you've asked?