Six companies have been fined nearly half a million pounds by premium-rate services watchdog the Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of Telephone Information Services (Icstis) after sending unsolicited 'spam and scam' text messages designed to make consumers call premium-rate numbers.
The six overseas-based companies, Vertical Media Ltd, Fast Way Holdings Ltd, Litmus Ltd, Indiano Communications, Greenbay Ltd and Quartel Ltd, were fined £75,000 each for breaching the Icstis Code of Practice. The regulator has also banned the companies from operating in the UK.
The accused companies sent text messages and made unsolicited phone calls using automated calling equipment which would ring once to leave 'missed calls' on mobile phones.
The aim was to entice people into calling premium-rate numbers costing up to £1.50 per minute to claim prizes.
According to Icstis the prizes either did not exist or were much less than what was promised. For example, a large cash prize would be offered but, at best, would turn out to be holiday vouchers with very restrictive clauses.
Icstis criticised four network operators, Intelliplus Group, Redstone Communications, Switch Call and Ventelo, for allowing the companies to rent lines.
"This was a serious problem and involves a lot of money. We had some agreement with most network operators last year to end this. So we are disappointed, because we feel these network operators have not acted as we expected," an Icstis spokesman told vnunet.com.
The six fined companies have appointed another UK company, Smile Telecom based in Bury, to act as their agent. Smile Telecom has been asked by Icstis to refund customers of the six companies.
But according to Icstis the company has refused to do this unless requested to do so by its six clients.
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