UK-based motoring and cycling retailer Halfords has been given a £30,000 ($34,414) fine by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) for sending unwanted marketing emails to customers.

An investigation by the ICO found the retailer guilty of sending 498,179 emails to promote the UK Government’s Fix Your Bike voucher scheme without customers’ consent.

Launched in 2020, Fix Your Bike allowed customers to redeem vouchers worth up to £50 while repairing bicycles at any certified retailers or mechanics across England.

Halfords allegedly manipulated the scheme to advertise its own services by encouraging people to book a free bicycle assessment and redeem the voucher at its outlets.

The ICO said that Halfords’ Fix Your Bike scheme emails breached the electronic marketing rule as they did not provide a way for customers to opt out of receiving the emails.

Electronic marketing rules prevent companies from sending emails or messages to people unless they have consented to it or are customers who have purchased their products in the past.

Retailers should also provide a way for people to opt out from these emails.

ICO investigation head Andy Curry said: “It is against the law to send marketing emails or texts to people without their permission.

“Not only this, it is a violation of their privacy rights as well as being frustrating and downright annoying.

“Halfords are a household name, and we expect companies like them to know and act better.

“This incident does not reflect well on the internal advice or processes and therefore a fine was warranted in this case.

“This also sends a message to similar organisations to review their electronic marketing operations, and that we will take necessary action if they break the law.”

Based in Redditch, Halfords supplies cycling and motoring services, vehicle servicing and repairs.