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David Westley, the general manager of Turret Digital, which set up YallaBanana.com, a daily-deals website.
David Westley, the general manager of Turret Digital, which set up YallaBanana.com, a daily-deals website.

Deluge of daily deals irks e-mail users

Receiving emails from daily deals websites without ever signing up? Read on

The flood of daily-deals websites launching in the region has triggered a backlash from people furious at receiving unsolicited e-mails.

Vexed recipients of offers have taken to social media sites such as Twitter to vent their anger and question the way in which group buying sites have obtained vast e-mail databases.

"Most of my e-mails are now daily deals, it's like they have harvested these e-mails and they just spam you without checking what you want," said Mita Srinivasan, a communications manager in Dubai.

The sites maintain they legitimately obtain e-mail addresses but concede that some recipients are unhappy at being bombarded with e-mails. "We have had complaints from people who were not completely happy, to which we apologised immediately," said David Westley, the general manager of Turret Digital, which set up YallaBanana.com, a daily-deals website, at the start of last month. "It does not make sense to e-mail people who do not want one."

YallaBanana obtained its database of 300,000 e-mail addresses from its parent company, Turret Media, which runs magazines such as Abu Dhabi Week and festivals such as Taste of Dubai.

The list contains the e-mail addresses of those who have signed up to receive information on Turret Media products.

"It's a huge list, so it's very difficult for us to remove people, but if anyone writes in to us or tweets, we remove them," Mr Westley said.

Group buying websites offer discounts on a range of products and services such as restaurant meals, hotel stays and sports activities.

JOYoffer.com, a daily-deals website aimed at women, launched a week ago with a database of 15,000 e-mail addresses it obtained by running a competition.

The website offered a number of prizes, including an iPad, as incentives for people to sign up their friends' e-mail addresses.

The winner signed up 600 e-mail addresses. JOYoffer's managing partner, Serhan Erol, concedes that not all of those addresses were given to the group buying website with the permission of the e-mail account holders.

"How many, let's say, are stolen e-mails? I don't think it is high," Mr Erol said. "Because we are using professional e-mail sending media, like MailChimp and ExactTarget, to be sent from them, the e-mails first have to be accredited."

As many as 20 group buying websites are believed to have launched this year in the Middle East.

Experts say that the sheer number of daily-deals websites launching in the UAE, and the resultant spamming of e-mail users, is likely to damage the reputation of some sites.

"Many sites' goal was to get as many e-mails as they could, but if they had gone out more openly, they would have attracted people that are interested rather than might be interested," said Dino Wilkinson, a media and communications lawyer at Norton Rose.

After the purchase last week of GoNabit by the US internet giant LivingSocial, Mr Wilkinson said that many sites were setting up as quickly as possible in the hope that they would also prove attractive to foreign buyers.

The GoNabit chief executive and co-founder, Dan Stuart, said consumers had a right to be annoyed about being spammed.

"It's interesting that companies take the approach that people will want to hear about their business without people stating they want to hear about it," Mr Stuart said.

In order to be bought by LivingSocial, GoNabit had to prove that it had obtained its database of e-mails by having people sign up to the website, he said.

rjones@thenational.ae

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