British retail giant Tesco has confirmed that it continues to provide TV Licensing with customers' personal information on a voluntary basis, despite there no longer being any legal requirement to do so.
Until 25th June 2013 (see our previous post) the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1967 compelled retailers of television receiving equipment to notify the Licensing Authority, the BBC, of all relevant sales within 30 days. The process, known as dealer notification, involved the retailer providing TV Licensing with the buyer's name, the address the equipment was to be used and a brief description of the equipment itself.
The relevant piece of legislation has now been repealed so that retailers, like Tesco, are now under no legal obligation to provide TV Licensing with information about the sale of television equipment. Worryingly, from a legal point of view, is Tesco's admission that it continues to send confidential customer information to TV Licensing, even though there is no legal obligation to do so. Such actions could constitute a breach of the Data Protection Act 1998, which obliges data controllers to protect any personal information they hold from unauthorised disclosure.
Anyone who is visited by TV Licensing on the basis of information Tesco has voluntarily fed it since the 25th June change in legislation, should consult a solicitor about the possible breach of their data rights.
We're absolutely astounded that Tesco's lawyers have not considered the legal implications of voluntarily continuing with dealer notification. Tesco is providing TV Licensing with information they are not entitled to, which is undoubtedly to the detriment of their customers. Picture the scene: Someone without a TV licence visits Tesco and buys a TV set for someone else as a gift; Tesco voluntarily grasses up the buyer to TV Licensing; the innocent buyer needlessly becomes the victim of TV Licensing's monthly threats. The buyer in that scenario had arguably become a victim of TV Licensing intimidation due to Tesco's blasé handling of their personal information. Worse still, as Tesco often passes Clubcard information to TV Licensing, there is a good chance that the buyer would be unaware this underhand practice had taken place.
Next time you're doing your shopping at Tesco, please pause to consider exactly what personal information they are collecting and who they might be passing it to. Can Tesco be trusted to handle confidential customer information in a responsible manner?
We shall certainly be thinking twice before entering a Tesco store in future.