Dixons Carphone defends decision to wait three days before disclosing data breach

The head of media relations at Dixons Retail has told PRWeek the firm went public with a data breach "as soon as it could" after questions were raised over why it waited three days before going public.

Dixons Carphone, the parent company of Carphone Warehouse discovered that systems had been breached on 5 August. However, it was 72 hours before the firm publicly revealed that names, addresses, dates of birth and payment information of 2.4 million customers had been obtained by hackers.

"We wanted to know as much as possible about the breach so we could provide customers with the correct information. All teams from the IT department through to comms were involved in this process," Mark Webb, head of media relations at Dixons Retail, told PRWeek.

The retailer initated a crisis comms strategy by launching an investigation and contacting customers by email.

"This is a fluid and important situation for the business and customers. We will of course be monitoring the situation and providing more information," he added.

Edelman, which is the retained agency for Carphone Warehouse, has been handling the social media strategy. This has involved using the official Carphone Warehouse Twitter account to respond to customer queries and point them to a comprehensive Q&A with further details.

Meanwhile, Brunswick, which provides corporate comms support for Dixons Carphone, released an official statement regarding the breach. This included an apology from Sebastian James, group chief executive of Dixons Carphone.

PRWeek understands there are currently no plans for the CEO to carry out any media interviews.

Previous high-profile crisis situations involving Thomas Cook and Alton Towers have shown that using executives as a focal point of a comms response can go either way. Thomas Cook executives were widely criticised after it took them nine years to apologise for the tragic deaths of two children on a package holiday to Corfu.

This was in stark contrast to how Alton Towers handled comms relating to the recent Smiler accident. Nick Varney, chief executive of parent company Merlin Entertainment, was at the front and centre of the media responses and was praised for his sensitive handling of the situation.

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