09Dec

At the end of November 2016, the data protection regulator, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) fined two more firms for sending spam texts concerning loans.

Like so many firms fined by the ICO recently, both Dorset-based Silver City Tech Ltd and London-based Oracle Insurance Brokers Ltd attempted to deflect the blame for sending the unsolicited messages onto third party marketing firms they had engaged. Once again, the ICO was not persuaded by this argument, as firms always retain responsibility for ensuring their marketing campaigns are conducted in accordance with the law, even if responsibility for delivering the messages is sub-contracted to another party.

Silver City was fined £100,000 after it sent more than three million texts over a five-month period. A typical message read:

“Maxine, we have received your details and could arrange £500 over six months. Click for cash. 1270% rep APR, 292% int. Stop2 opt out.”

Firms cannot send marketing text messages unless all recipients have previously given clear and explicit consent to receiving them. Inviting people to reply to opt out of future messages, as in the example message above, will never be sufficient to ensure compliance with the law.

Silver City continued to send large numbers of unsolicited texts even though the ICO had warned the firm about this practice.

Oracle sent around 136,000 texts, and received a fine of £30,000 for its actions. An example of one of its marketing messages was:

“Richard You’ve been accepted for a loan today! Nothing to pay back for 6mths, no credit checks – get funds now at www.payday2day.co.uk to stop txt stop”

If the firms choose not to appeal and settle the fines by January 5 2017 then they will be reduced by 20% to £80,000 and £24,000 respectively.

Andy Curry, ICO enforcement group manager, said:

“Affiliate firms are like postmen, delivering the message. It’s the people behind the message whose job it is to make sure it complies with the law. They must make rigorous checks to ensure the rules have been followed.”

Mr Curry added:

“Hundreds of people have complained to us about spam texts relating to payday loans this year, showing it is a real problem for the public. These reports help inform our investigations so we can take action against the wrongdoers.”

The ICO currently has the power to fine companies up to £500,000 for breaches of the law regarding marketing communications. However, amid concerns that some firms are putting themselves into voluntary liquidation to avoid paying, the Government is now proposing that the ICO is also allowed to fine individual company directors as well. Hence from next spring, firms who break the law regarding marketing communications could be fined, whilst also seeing one or more of their directors hit with a monetary penalty for the same offence.

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.