30Nov

A claims management company (CMC) that specialises in payment protection insurance claims has been fined £80,000 by the data protection regulator, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). Birmingham-based UKMS Money Solutions Limited, which trades as UK Money Solutions, sent more than 1.3 million unsolicited marketing texts between April and June 2015.

The company relied upon the assurances of the list broker from which the individuals’ contact details were purchased, and did not conduct sufficient checks of its own to ensure that the recipients had indeed consented to receiving the texts.

Marketing texts can in normal circumstances be sent only to persons who have explicitly given their consent to receiving them, and giving details of how to opt out of future communications within the message is not sufficient. The only permitted exception is when customers have enquired about goods or services in the past and their contact details were obtained in this way. Here it is acceptable to message them about similar goods and services, and to provide a simple means by which they can opt out of future messages. However, this exemption did not apply in this case.

The fine will be reduced by 20% to £64,000 if payment is made by December 17 2015. If UKMS does not pay by this time, or elects to appeal the decision to the First-Tier Tribunal, then the full £80,000 will be payable.

Andy Curry, enforcement manager at the ICO, said:

“UKMS relied on their data suppliers’ word that the people on the lists had agreed to be contacted. That’s simply not good enough. UKMS should have known that the responsibility to ensure they had the right consent to send messages to people rests with them.”

The ICO says it is assisting the Claims Management Regulator at the Ministry of Justice as it investigates the marketing practices of five more CMCs.

The ICO can fine companies up to £500,000 if they breach the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations. Section 22 of these Regulations covers the sending of electronic messages. As companies can now be fined simply because their marketing communications cause annoyance or inconvenience, any company that chooses to make unsolicited calls or send unwanted marketing texts is risking being subject to enforcement action by the ICO.

In the same week as the UKMS fine, in November 2015, the ICO took a number of other actions in its fight against nuisance calls and texts. It fined two suppliers of call blocking software – Nuisance Call Blocker Ltd and Telecom Protection Service Ltd – £90,000 and £80,000 respectively, for making marketing phone calls to individuals registered with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS). The watchdog also wrote to more than 1,000 list brokers asking them to provide details of their arrangements for ensuring consumers give consent to their data being processed, and of the arrangements they have in place for ensuring TPS registered customers are not contacted.

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.