Authorities in the UK are investigating after a food delivery service offered a £10 (roughly $14) credit to a woman who received unsolicited personal messages from a driver.
The Information Commissioner’s office, which regulates breaches of UK data protection law, said it was examining the case after Michelle Midwinter, 33, from Gloucestershire in England, posted screengrabs of the messages she received from the Just Eat driver on WhatsApp.
The driver said he was “a fan,” sent her a “kiss” emoji and called her “baby.”
After raising the issue with Just Eat through its live chat service, she was told Just Eat “don’t have a complaints department” before being offered a goodwill credit of £10, according to the screenshots posted on Twitter.
“At first I was shocked at the fact someone could approach me in that way, but that turned to feeling very uncomfortable as I realized this guy had my name, address and phone number,” Midwinter said in a statement to CNN. “I have never had an issue with using the service before and certainly no issue from the takeaway in question. I usually order with my boyfriend and, to be honest, he answers the door most of the time and this has certainly never happened to him.”
The incident took place on Saturday after Midwinter and her friend ordered takeaway from one of their favorite restaurants via the Just Eat app.
According to the messages, the driver even asked Midwinter if she had a boyfriend and signed off saying: “Good night bby see you next time when I get your meal.”
Midwinter said she didn’t feel comfortable going directly to the restaurant as she was worried about repercussions.
“I did not want them to find out who made the complaint – after all my privacy had already been breached by the, and how was I to know they would not tell the driver it was me who filed the complaint?” she said.
But, Just Eat’s response left Midwinter “extremely disappointed,” she said.
“I was offered £5 for the ‘inconvenience’ and, when I said that was insulting, they offered me £10,” Midwinter said.
Just Eat, which works with over 20,000 restaurants and takeaways across the UK, according to its website, said it was “appalled” by the handling of the initial complaint.
“This lacked empathy and does not reflect our policies or the way Just Eat would expect something like this to be dealt with,” the company said in statement provided to CNN.
Just Eat added it had launched an investigation with the partner restaurant in question.
“This driver has acted in a way that does not represent Just Eat and our core values,” Just Eat said. “We are also speaking to this customer offline and, if the customer decides this is a criminal matter and reports it to the police, we will of course assist the police with any investigation.”
‘First complaint of its kind’
The Information Commissioner’s Office said it was looking into the allegations as a possible breach of the Data Protection Act.
A statement on the ICO’s website read: “If a customer’s phone number is used for reasons for which it was not originally taken, it could be a breach of the Data Protection Act. Organizations have a legal duty to make sure personal data is only used for the purposes for which it was obtained. We are aware of reports of an incident involving Just Eat and will be looking into it.”
An ICO spokesman told CNN it was the first complaint of its kind.
Midwinter’s tweet gained a lot of traction on social media, with dozens of women sharing similar experiences and raising questions of privacy and data protection.
“The scary thing is the sheer number of females who have had similar experiences – a few with Just Eat but, generally, this issue is much bigger and more widespread than I initially anticipated,” Midwinter said. “We trust companies with our personal details, and for them to be used in this way is unacceptable.”