A debt management firm and a well-known car finance brokerage firm were both fined by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in September 2016 for sending unsolicited marketing texts.

West London-based Vincent Bond Ltd was fined £40,000 after it sent 346,162 text messages between May and December 2015 to advertise its debt management services. 147 complaints about the firm’s activities were made to data protection watchdog the ICO, and when investigated, the firm was unable to demonstrate that all recipients had given prior consent to receiving this type of communication.

In setting the level of penalty, the ICO acknowledges that “Vincent Bond has taken substantial remedial action” since its breaches of the law.

ICO enforcement manager Andy Curry said:
“Vincent Bond Ltd was responsible for ensuring its text messages were being sent to people who had agreed to receive them.

“It failed to do this and instead, caused frustration, anger and upset. Unwanted texts are an intrusion on people’s lives and it is right that we take action to stop them. And we have.

“When people complain to us they need to know that it counts. The intelligence they give us helps us trace the unwanted calls or messages to source and gives us a better chance of stopping the nuisance.”

Manchester-based firm Carfinance247 Ltd was fined £30,000 after it sent 65,000 texts between August and December 2015 and 912 complaints were received.

Like so many recent recipients of ICO fines, the firm attempted to pass the blame onto a third party, but the rules regarding this are unambiguous. If an authorised financial services firm engages another firm to conduct marketing activities on its behalf, then the authorised firm will be held responsible for the actions of the third party.

In any case, the third party firm claimed that “Carfinance 247 Limited were fully aware of their marketing strategies and its use of text messages.”

Steve Eckersley, the ICO’s head of enforcement said:
“Carfinance247 Ltd tried to hide behind another company and distance themselves from the marketing practices involved.

“Let me be clear – if your business has hired someone else to provide direct marketing then the responsibility for the campaign is yours. There is nowhere to hide. If you break the rules we will find you and fine you.”

These fines will be reduced to £36,000 and £24,000 respectively if the firms concerned do not appeal and pay the penalty early.

Data protection law, in the form of section 22 of the European Union’s Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003, requires firms to obtain the explicit consent of all recipients prior to sending them marketing texts. Including an option to reply and opt out of future marketing texts is not sufficient to comply with the law. Firms should also expect similar provisions to remain in force once the UK completes its exit from the European Union.

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.