Bounty reps taken off Lister maternity wards after company illegally shared mums' data

PUBLISHED: 19:35 14 June 2019 | UPDATED: 21:08 14 June 2019

The Information Commissioner's Office has fined Welwyn Garden City maternity company Bounty, based at 29 Broadwater Road, £400,000 for illegally sharing data. Picture: ICO

The Information Commissioner's Office has fined Welwyn Garden City maternity company Bounty, based at 29 Broadwater Road, £400,000 for illegally sharing data. Picture: ICO

ICO

There will no longer be 'Bounty ladies' on the maternity wards of the Lister Hospital after the Welwyn Garden City-based company was fined £400,000 for illegally sharing the personal data of more than 14 million people.

East & North Herts NHS Trust confirmed today that it has issued notice on its current contract with Bounty, two months after the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) made its "unprecedented" verdict.

The current contract will finish at the end of July.

An ICO investigation concluded on April 12 that the company, a pregnancy and parenting club, had sold on the data of its members without being fully clear with them about it, until April last year - a breach of the Data Protection Act.

READ MORE: Welwyn Garden City maternity company fined £400K for illegally sharing 14 million people's data

Bounty's parenting club offers new mums portraits of the newborn taken at the bedside and invites them to sign up for product samples and consumer offers.

But it has long come under criticism for what have been described by campaigners as "invasive" practices.

Welwyn Garden City dad Adrian McNeece co-organised a petition against commercial reps on NHS wards, which in 2018 gained over 14,000 signatures and got a government response.

READ MORE: Welwyn Garden City dad fights to keep commercial reps off NHS wards

Through Freedom of Information requests he also found out that in four years, the NHS Trust had gained just over £27,000 from its contract with Bounty.

Adrian was surprised that there was not a stronger financial incentive for the NHS in the deal.

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"Clearly the NHS requires more funding, but selling cheap access to new mums is frankly a revolting misogynistic practice that must end," he told this newspaper last year.

The ICO investigation, which made national headlines, was called "unprecedented" by ICO's director of investigations Steve Eckersley.

He added that the company's actions are likely to have caused distress to many, and "appear to have been motivated by financial gain, given that data sharing was an integral part of their business model at the time".

Bounty's managing director Jim Kelleher acknowledged in April that "this was not of the standard expected of us".

However, he added that Bounty had made "significant changes" to its processes since spring 2018 and has ended its relationships with data brokerage companies.

The company has promised to appoint an independent data expert for annual checks that it says will be published annually on its website.

At the time of the ICO's decision, the East & North Herts NHS Trust said it would be reviewing its relationship with Bounty, and two months later has now confirmed that it is issuing notice on the firm's contract.

This newspaper has asked Bounty for comment following the NHS trust's decision.

Mr McNeece, whose little son Charlie was born at Lister Hospital, said he is "delighted" by the news.

"New mums can now give birth and receive care on East & North Herts NHS Trust maternity wards without being needlessly hounded by sales reps looking for their personal data," he said.

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