The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has fined a spam text company a whopping £175,000, as the crackdown on nuisance marketing continues.
The firm, First Financial, was found to have sent a total of 4,031 messages to mobile phone owners who had not consented to receive them during February and March of 2013. The messages related to loan payments the phone owners were supposedly entitled to.
Vodafone customers suffered the most, with 3,197 messages sent, while 444 customers with EE and 390 with Three also received the messages. This generated a total of 323 complaints to the ICO from disgruntled phone owners.
The complaints ranged from the time the texts were sent, often during the early hours of the morning, to the fact that even asking to be removed from messages simply led to more messages being sent.
The ICO said in its investigation it found First Financial knew it was sending unsolicited messages.
“First Financial acted deliberately in sending, or instigating the sending of 4,031 unsolicited marketing texts to mobile phone subscribers who had not consented to receive such unsolicited marketing texts as set out above,” it said.
“First Financial carried out this SMS/text campaign using unregistered SIM cards which is well known amongst those in the direct marketing industry as a method of avoiding detection by the mobile telephone networks’ spam detectors.”
ICO director of operations Simon Entwisle said the size of the fine should serve as a warning to other spam marketers that unwanted text messages would not be tolerated.
“People are fed up with this menace and they are not willing to be bombarded with nuisance calls and text messages at all times of the day trying to get them to sign up to high-interest loans,” he said.
“We will continue to target these companies that continue to blight the daily lives of people across the UK. We are also currently speaking with the government to get the legal bar lowered, allowing us to take action at a much earlier stage.”
The company director Hamed Shabani has been in trouble with the ICO before, after receiving a fine of £1,180 in October for failing to register the fact he was handling personal data with the ICO.
During that case Shabani had tried to distance himself from the company, claiming he had nothing to do with it. “The fact that this individual tried to distance himself from the unlawful activities of his company shows the kind of individuals we’re dealing with here,” added Entwisle.
The huge fine comes amid an ongoing crackdown on spam marketing via text messages, with the government, the ICO and Ofcom consulting on how to more effectively police this area.
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