Financial firm fined after sending seven million spam texts

28 Sep 2016 04:10 PM

Company bosses are being urged to ensure their marketing complies with the law as a financial firm is fined £130,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

Intelligent Lending, trading as Ocean Finance, sent more than seven million texts offering a new credit card powered by a major lender.

Manchester-based Ocean Finance believed it was complying with the law because the third party firm it obtained names and phone numbers from claimed it had people’s consent to send texts.

But an ICO investigation found the consent was insufficient to meet the requirements of the law.

Steve Eckersley, ICO head of enforcement, said:

“Company bosses everywhere should sit up and take note of this fine and check their practices are compliant with the law before embarking on marketing campaigns.

“It’s your responsibility to make rigorous checks to ensure personal data has been obtained fairly and lawfully. It’s not enough to rely on the word of a third party.”

He added:

“We have made it easier for people to report organisations responsible for unlawful marketing practices and they have in their thousands.”

The company sent a total of 7.7 million text messages over six months, with 4.5 million of these successfully transmitted.

More than 1,900 complaints were made about the texts to the 7726 spam reporting service and the ICO. Examples include:

“Very worried that my personal information is being handed around…I feel this is very stressful and am wondering who knows what about me.”

“I do not like to think of random companies that I have nothing to do with storing my details to intrude upon my life, offering me things I have no interest in. It makes me angry to think that they are obtaining or using my number illegally.”

As well as a £130,000 fine, the ICO has issued Intelligent Lending with an enforcement notice ordering it to stop sending spam texts.

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