Information Commissioner's Office
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Greater Manchester firm fined by ICO after 64,000 spam text messages sent

A company that instructed a firm in Belize to send around 64,000 spam texts promoting loans on its behalf has been fined £20,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

Munee Hut operated out of Eyebrow Cottage, a Grade II listed building in the south Manchester town of Sale.

An ICO investigation, prompted by hundreds of complaints from the public about the spam texts, revealed Munee Hut had obtained the personal details used to send the messages from a variety of loan and prize draw websites. None of these sites indicated the data would be used for sending marketing text messages from Munee Hut.

The law says that companies must have obtained specific consent from people confirming they are willing to receive marketing text messages from, or on behalf of, their firm. Munee Hut did not have this consent.

Steve Eckersley, ICO Head of Enforcement, said:

“Paying an overseas company to send text messages for you is not a get-out for failing to comply with the law. Munee Hut should have taken responsibility for ensuring that proper and specific consent to send the messages had been obtained.”

In addition to the £20,000 fine, Munee Hut has also been issued with a legal notice compelling it to stop instigating the sending of unlawful text messages. Failure to comply with this could result in court action.

The ICO has published detailed guidance for firms carrying out direct marketing by phone, text, email, post or fax. 

Notes to Editors

  1. The Information Commissioner’s Office upholds information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.
  1. The ICO has specific responsibilities set out in the Data Protection Act 1998, the Freedom of Information Act 2000, Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003.
  1. The ICO can take action to change the behaviour of organisations and individuals that collect, use and keep personal information. This includes criminal prosecution, non-criminal enforcement and audit. The ICO has the power to impose a monetary penalty on a data controller of up to £500,000.
  1. The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) sit alongside the Data Protection Act. They give people specific privacy rights in relation to electronic communications.

There are specific rules on:

  • marketing calls, emails, texts and faxes;
  • cookies (and similar technologies);
  • keeping communications services secure; and
  • customer privacy as regards traffic and location data, itemised billing, line identification, and directory listings.

We aim to help organisations comply with PECR and promote good practice by offering advice and guidance. We will take enforcement action against organisations that persistently ignore their obligations.

  1. The rules on electronic mail marketing (which includes text messages) are in regulation 22 of PECR. In short, you must not send electronic mail marketing to individuals, unless:
  • they have specifically consented to electronic mail from you; or
  • they are an existing customer who bought (or negotiated to buy) a similar product or service from you in the past, and you gave them a simple way to opt out both when you first collected their details and in every message you have sent.

You must not disguise or conceal your identity, and you must provide a valid contact address so they can opt out or unsubscribe.

  1. Civil Monetary Penalties (CMPs) are subject to a right of appeal to the (First-tier Tribunal) General Regulatory Chamber against the imposition of the monetary penalty and/or the amount of the penalty specified in the monetary penalty notice.
  1. Any monetary penalty is paid into the Treasury’s Consolidated Fund and is not kept by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
  1. To report a concern to the ICO telephone our helpline 0303 123 1113 or go to ico.org.uk/concerns/

 

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