The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has imposed a fine of £120,000 on a Manchester-based claims management company that sent almost five million illegal text messages. The organisation described the breach as “a serious contravention” of the relevant regulations.

In the first half of 2018, the company sent 4,833,167 direct marketing text messages, 3,560,211 of which were successfully delivered, and after receiving a large number of complaints, the data protection regulator investigated. In total, 1,353 complaints were made either to the 7726 spam reporting service or directly to the ICO.

The company used four third-party websites to generate its leads, and argued that when subscribing to these sites, the recipients had consented to receiving the texts. However, the CMC was only named on only two of these websites’ privacy policies and users were also required to give consent to receive marketing from third parties as a condition of subscribing, which is itself against the law. Even on the two websites where the CMC was named, they were just one of a number of listed companies, and there was no facility for users to choose to receive marketing from some of the named companies and not others.

The fine will be reduced by 20% to £96,000 if payment is made by June 4 and if the CMC waives its right to appeal.

Complaints received by the ICO included:

“I have not consented to these types of messages and it is very concerning and worrying how this company got hold of my mobile number.”

“I have not given this company any of my personal information. I have never had any contact with this company. Receiving text messages like this is very concerning as I don’t know what other information they have on me, or where they got this information.”

Steve Eckersley, ICO Director of Investigations, said:

”Companies which are responsible for generating these types of marketing messages should make sure they are operating legally or face a potential fine. [name of company] should have known better. The laws on these types of marketing messages are strict because they can be very intrusive.”

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