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ICO Slaps £200K Fine on Nuisance Text Biz

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has fined a London-based company £200,000 for sending millions of nuisance texts to unsuspecting consumers.

Tax Return Limited sent a staggering 14.8 million text messages between July 2016 and October 2017 without gaining proper consent first.

The firm claimed in its defense that consent had been given through third-party websites, but the ICO ruled that these privacy policies were too vague and generic. What’s more, neither Tax Return nor the third party service provider it used for its campaign were listed on the policies.

“Spam texts are a real nuisance to people across the country and this firm’s failure to follow the rules drove over 2,100 people to complain,” claimed ICO director of investigations, Steve Eckersley.

“Firms using third-party marketing services need to double-check whether they have valid consent from people to send promotional text messages to them. Generic third-party consent is also not enough and companies will be fined if they break the law.”

The ICO has the power to fine firms up to £500,000 for breaking the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR): the regime which governs marketing calls, emails, texts and faxes.

Tax Return is just one of many firms to have been fined large sums by the regulator over the past few years.

Last month the ICO fined ACT Response of Middlesbrough £140,000 for sending 496,455 marketing calls to subscribers of the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) who had signed up specifically to avoid nuisance calls. Secure Home Systems (SHS) of Bilston, West Midlands, was fined £80,000 for making calls to 84,347 TPS-registered numbers.

Other offending firms include Keurboom Communications (£400K), Miss-Sold Products UK (£350K), and Your Money Rights (£350K), among many more.

Campaigners have called on the government to come good on its promise to directly fine directors of companies which breach the PECR. A current loophole means many seek bankruptcy to escape punishment, only to go on to set up new businesses.

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