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Data Protection Commission

Case Study 6 - Cross marketing of a credit card by a travel agent

I received a number of complaints against Stein Travel about the marketing of a Stein Travel/MBNA credit card. It transpired that Stein Travel had provided all the relevant contact data of its customers to MBNA.

When my staff enquired about this, Stein Travel were of the opinion that they were compliant with the Data Protection Acts  in conducting their campaign. On their booking form under the heading for Data Protection it is stated that 'The information that we use is for fulfilling our contract as a tour operator/holiday provider. We may from time to time, make your information available to companies within our group.'

As MBNA was not a company within the group and as marketing a credit card is not the same as marketing a holiday, it was held that consent from customers should have been obtained prior to the marketing of the Stein Travel/MBNA credit card. When this was brought to Stein Travel's attention, they initiated an immediate cessation to the campaign and undertook to review their entire procedures relating to storing and processing data and their marketing practices where promotional partners are involved.

My staff also contacted MBNA who stated that they had assumed that the necessary consents had been given by Stein Travel customers to receiving calls about the credit card. I accepted this and that MBNA had acted in good faith.

In this case, I was satisfied that Stein Travel acted promptly to revise their procedures and I was happy that they were now aware of their responsibilities under the Acts.

The case illustrates the importance of being clear about marketing practices - a credit card, even a co-branded one, is not considered by me to be a product or service similar to the principal business. In these circumstances, the onus is on the travel agent to ensure that consent is given for this type of direct marketing.