Two owners of a marketing company sending out unsolicited text messages have been fined a total of £440,000 in what is the first Civil Monetary Penalty imposed by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
This is the first time that the ICO has used its power to issue fine for breach of the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations since these powers were approved in January 2012. The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations themselves date back to 2003.
If you’ve ever received spam text messages about PPI or urging you to claim for the accident that you had, then you’ll know how annoying they are. Often they’re not only illegal to send as you didn’t give permission to receive them, but as they carry no information identifying the company responsible for sending them they’re doubly illegal.
The ICO say that they ran an 18 month investigation when they became aware of Tetrus Telecoms after receiving intelligence in May 2011 that the company was sending huge volumes of unsolicited text messages. Following two raids evidence suggested that the company were using unregistered pay as you go sim cards to send out as many as 840,000 illegal text messages a day with an income of £7,000 – £8,000 a day.
The fines issued are due for payment on Christmas Eve, 24th December 2012, and if paid by then are eligible for a 20% discount. However appeals can also be lodged by the same date which could string out proceedings into the new year.
The ICO are currently considering issuing penalties to three other companies for similar offenses.
What to do if you receive spam text messages
Firstly never ever respond to spam text messages. All that will do is confirm that your mobile number is live and it is likely to be sold on and you’ll receive yet more spam.
If there is information clearly identifying the company who send you the spam then bill them for wasting your time. I’d suggest an amount of £35.00 and after billing every spammer I could identify I seem to have been removed from most spam lists!
If you can’t identify the company and especially if they’re sending from unregistered mobile phone numbers, then report them directly on the ICO Spam Survey.