Bounty, Emma’s Diary and selling on new parent’s contact information
Like a lot of first-time pregnant mums I had what Ross from Friends termed a ‘super-human thirst for knowledge.’ I read everything I could get my hands on, downloaded multiple apps, and of course, signed up for all the websites. There’s loads, with Bounty and Emma’s Diary being two of the bigger ones. As well as email newsletters, both offer leaflets and pregnancy information packs of freebie samples (you can pick these up from supermarkets and chemists, and they’re handed out by midwives).
To have full access to all of the services, both of these sites require a full online sign-up, where you give your name, address and phone number. Of course they ask if you want to have your details passed on to third parties. I always say no to this. Always. I spend so much time unsubscribing from email newsletters I never signed up for, I’d never bring them on myself deliberately.
Yet a few weeks later I got a phone call from an unrecognised number. Congratulating me on my pregnancy, the caller the went on to offer me a free set of children’s books. “No thanks…and where did you get my number from?” I asked. It was the first of quite a few unsolicited calls. And an awful lot of post: leaflets and brochures offering children’s ISAs, book clubs, photo shoots, nursery furniture, supermarket baby events, and baby products. Then there’s the spam texts from companies that have clearly group-bought a lot of mobile numbers. And yet more calls from call centres. The caller would occasionally say they were calling in association with Bounty or Emma’s Diary, or when pressed that they’d bought a list of contacts from them.
It was only reading all the coverage of Mumsnet’s campaign to keep Bounty off the labour ward that reminded me of this side. I didn’t have a negative experience with the Bounty rep as she was in and out in minutes, pretty much like my experience on the delivery ward! It seems I was in a minority though and lots of people were hassled in the vulnerable time post birth, so I think it’s a really great campaign.
The data selling side is only a minor niggle in the grand scheme of things really, although it’s unwanted and annoying. But it’s a very common annoyance; I tweeted about it yesterday when I read about the Mumsnet campaign, and so many mums replied saying they’d experienced the same despite also saying no to having details passed on. I didn’t think to try to get myself taken off the lists, but Emma did and found it impossible.
I know it’s voluntary to sign to these sites and services, and on the editorial and social media side both of them provide genuinely useful information during pregnancy. It’s just the bombardment of third-party information, even if you opt out, that I – and a lot of other mums – have a problem with.
According to this article the NHS can make £5.50 per baby through cash-per-access deals from allowing companies like Bounty onto maternity wards. But there’s clearly big money to be had for the companies in selling on your data, too; as a pregnant woman and then a parent, you’re a huge target market and represent, in cold hard terms, big future spending potential. So the question I have is around how much they are making from selling on your information in these lists. And what’s the ethical and legal basis for them to do this when you’ve opted out?