23Mar

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has announced that it has executed two search warrants at addresses in Greater Manchester as part of its ongoing campaign against unsolicited text messages.

ICO investigators visited office premises in Stockport and a house in Sale, where they seized computer equipment and documents, which will now be analysed further. The firms concerned have not been named.

The data protection watchdog suspects that the firms are involved in a large-scale campaign of sending unsolicited texts to market products and services such as pensions, loans, payment protection insurance claims and flight cancellation claims. The firms are suspected to have sent more than 11 million unsolicited text messages to UK mobile numbers between January 2017 and January 2018, and the ICO has received 3,297 separate complaints about their activities.

The ICO press release adds that, not only were these text messages sent without the consent of the recipients, but that they also failed to identify the firm who was making the communication, or to give recipients the opportunity to opt out of future communications.

Andy Curry, the ICO’s Enforcement Group Manager, said:

“Nuisance text messages like this are a real problem for people as seen in the number of complaints we have received in this case alone. Businesses and individuals who carry out this type of marketing, should be assured that we will carry out thorough investigations and take tough action against them where necessary. Along with existing evidence, we hope the evidence seized in the raids will enable us to stop this business’s activity and act as a deterrent to others.”

The ICO has taken enforcement action on many occasions against firms who make unsolicited marketing communications. It has repeatedly warned firms that live marketing calls cannot be made to people who are registered with the Telephone Preference Service, and that automated calls and texts can only be made to people who have explicitly consented in advance to receiving these types of communications.

Including an option within the automated call or text to opt out of future communications is not sufficient – the recipient’s consent must be obtained in advance of it being sent. Here, the ICO also stresses that firms cannot rely on vaguely worded general consent statements, along the lines of “you may be contacted about products and services which we believe may be of interest.” The consent wording must make consumers aware that by signing their name, or ticking the box, they are agreeing to receive marketing communications of a particular nature, such as receiving marketing calls and texts.

Marketing communications must also make it clear which firm is sending the messages.

The maximum fine for breaches of data protection law will increase dramatically from May 2018 when the General Data Protection Regulation comes into force.

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.