The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has imposed an £80,000 fine on Provident Personal Credit Ltd (PPC) for sending large numbers of nuisance marketing texts. The data protection watchdog reports that the Bradford-based firm was responsible for 999,057 unsolicited text messages between April and October 2015 to promote personal loans offered under the Satsuma Loans brand name. 868,393 were sent by affiliate firm Money Gap Group Ltd, which trades as CashLady, and another 130,664 by another affiliate, Sandhurst Associates Ltd. Provident entered into a contract with these firms to send the texts on its behalf.
However, the press release suggests that the actual number of texts “was significantly higher” as it is likely that other affiliates of Provident sent further marketing texts.
As with so many recent enforcement cases, Provident was in breach of section 22 of the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations, which forbids firms from sending marketing texts to anyone who has not given explicit consent in advance to receiving them. In this case, the texts invited people to opt out of future messages, by texting ‘stop’ or ‘QUIT’ or similar, but giving this option to recipients has never been sufficient to comply with the Regulations.
The ICO does acknowledge that in this case, the recipients had received ‘privacy notices’ from the affiliate firms, which stated that they may receive information about “goods and services that may be of interest”, and products and services available from “selected partners”. However, no mention was made of Provident or any of its trading names, and no mention was made either of the fact that the “information” would be sent in the form of direct marketing text messages.
The fine will be reduced to £64,000 if Provident does not exercise its right of appeal, and if it also makes full payment by August 10.
ICO Head of Enforcement Steve Eckersley said:
“The law is clear. You can’t send marketing texts to people who have not signed up to receive them.
“Being bombarded with texts you didn’t ask for and don’t want is an intrusion into people’s privacy, an irritation and, in the worst cases can be upsetting.
”Companies have no excuse whatsoever for sending nuisance texts, whether they do it themselves or employ someone else to do it for them.”
In a statement responding to the fine, Provident said:
“Although the ICO found that the contravention was not deliberate, PPC takes this contravention extremely seriously. It has reviewed its marketing processes and put in place procedures designed to prevent such conduct happening again.”
According to the recently published ICO annual report, the data protection watchdog imposed 23 fines, totalling £1.9 million, for similar offences during the 12 months to March 31 2017. The maximum fine that can be imposed on any firm for breaches of this nature is £500,000.
The information shown in this article was correct at the time of publication. Articles are not routinely reviewed and as such are not updated. Please be aware the facts, circumstances or legal position may change after publication of the article.