ICO issues £70,000 fine and warns companies ‘there’s no get-out clause’ when it comes to spam text law
7 Nov 2016 03:45 PM
A company that sent out 2.2 million illegal marketing text messages has been fined £70,000 and ordered to stop by the ICO. The penalty was issued to London-based Nouveau Finance Ltd, a company which provides a loan matching service.
Although there were only 92 complaints made about the messages, an ICO investigation revealed that Nouveau Finance Ltd had sent out over two million messages without consent.
The business, which is registered with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), contracted a marketing services company to carry out the six-month-long text campaign, but failed to check that this company had complied with the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR). People had not given permission to receive the messages and the company didn’t identify who they were from. All of these failings broke the law.
Steve Eckersley, the ICO’s Head of Enforcement said:
“Relying on another company to do your marketing is not a get-out clause when it comes to the law. If your business has instigated a campaign, you are responsible and it’s up to you to make sure it meets the requirements of some very strict regulations.
“Our investigation found that despite relying heavily on direct marketing for its business, the company did not seem to understand the rules around electronic marketing and that’s not good enough.”
It’s against the law for a business to send text messages to people when they haven’t given specific consent to receive them. Alongside the fine, the ICO has also issued an enforcement notice ordering the company to stop sending unlawful texts in the future. If the company does not comply with the notice, it could face court action.
Mr Eckersley said:
“The law is there for a reason, it’s to stop companies inundating people with unwanted messages. Nouveau Finance Ltd neglected its responsibilities and that’s why they received the fine and were told to halt the campaign.”
The Government has recently announced plans to introduce fines for company directors heading up nuisance marketing firms. The new law should be in place by next spring. Our recent blog, Closing the back door on nuisance call directors, gives more details.
Mobile phone users can report unsolicited marketing text messages to the Spam Reporting Service by forwarding the message to 7726 which spells out “SPAM”.
Notes to Editors
- The Information Commissioner’s Office upholds information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Any monetary penalty is paid into the Treasury’s Consolidated Fund and is not kept by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
- To report a concern to the ICO telephone our helpline 0303 123 1113 or go to ico.org.uk/concerns.