Samuel Rae, 87, failed to tick a box preventing the sharing of his personal data in 1994, resulting in at least 15 charities selling and passing on his details up to 200 times between them.
His information also ended up in the hands of conmen who went on to trick him out of £35,000, while Mr Rae was hit with £7,000 worth of fees and interest from the credit cards used to make the payments.
Guidance from the Information Commissioner’s Office states that charities and other organisations should have consent within the last 6 months before contacting consumers.
Christopher Graham, the Information Commissioner, said: “The fact that everyone is shouting, ‘I never gave you permission to do that’ and you turn around and say, ‘Oh yes you did actually, in 1994’ because you forgot to tick a box, I am sorry that is not consent.
“That does not give you the right to trade in people’s personal information years after the event.”
The RSPCA and International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) will also be investigated over claims they continued to contact Mr Rae despite being asked to stop.
Mark Garnier, Conservative MP for Wyre Forest, has called on parliament to look into how charities handle consumers’ data, as well as for a time limit on how long organisations can assume consent following an opt-in.
The RSPCA said it “strongly disputes any claims that we deliberately target the elderly or vulnerable, or deceive our supporters in any way.”
A spokesman for the IFAW said: “We are investigating the allegation that we continued to contact this supporter after he asked us not to contact him.”
National Accident Helpline established the Ethical Marketing Charter to help bring an end to nuisance marketing in the personal injury sector. Signatories to the Ethical Marketing Charter stand firmly against the unethical buying and selling of data, as well as its misuse. To find out more about the Charter and what its signatories commit to, visit our FAQs page.