x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Cobone.com compensates customers for disclosing emails

Coupon website offers its customers Dh50 compensation credits after releasing hundreds of users' email addresses by mistake.

DUBAI // Hundreds of people have received compensation and an apology after signing up for a money-saving coupon deal, only to have their e-mail details released without their consent.

They had taken advantage of an offer on Cobone.com, a UAE group coupon website that promised them pizza at less than half price.

But when the company e-mailed them on Sunday to clarify the terms of the Telepizza deal, it did so by CCing - rather than blind copying - a long list of people who had taken it up. That meant everyone who received the e-mail could see the addresses of all the other recipients.

Cobone was responding to an initial customer complaint that the deal could not be used in conjunction with other offers. The customer was demanding a refund, but was told the terms of the deal stood.

That, for many who received the clarification, was beside the point. "I don't care what the below e-mail was about," one wrote to the whole list "but I'm ANGRY that my e-mail address, which is registered with Cobone.com, was openly shared in the e-mail.

"This is against the privacy guaranteed by the website and I think we all are owed an apology by the [person] responsible for this."

The website works by offering discounts on products and services, but a set number of people need to sign up for each deal for it to become valid.

Although on this occasion the offer was for pizza, Cobone lists deals for everything from flowers to massage sessions - potentially far more embarrassing for customers if their participation is made public.


On Tuesday night, Mohammed Abdelwahed, Cobone.com's customer service manager, e-mailed an apology to the recipients of the offending message.

"On the 20th of March, the Cobone.com support team under my supervision contacted you with regards to the terms and conditions of the Telepizza deal," he wrote.

"There was unfortunately a human error in the way this communication was handled, which led to all customers who purchased this deal to be visible as close copied (CC'd) into the e-mail address field.

"We understand that data privacy is a serious matter and would like to offer our most sincere apologies for this occurrence."

He said the company had reviewed its procedures to ensure such a mistake could not be repeated.

"This is an unfortunate and unique incident that in no way reflects the business values or efforts of the whole team to keep your personal information secure and private."

The company has now credited the affected customers with Dh50 to their accounts. Anyone concerned about the issue was advised to contact him directly.