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ICO Slaps Nuisance Text Biz with £100K Fine

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has slapped a £100,000 fine on a Fareham firm accused of spamming users with millions of text messages.

Over 1000 complaints were made to the 7726 spam text reporting service and straight to the ICO between October 2015 and June 2016, the privacy watchdog said.

The culprit, OneCom Limited, was unable to explain to the ICO how it had obtained the phone numbers of these complainants or provide evidence that these users had given their prior consent.

That means it broke the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) which govern marketing missives.

The firm admitted to the ICO that it sent a staggering 3.3 million text messages between October 1 2015 and March 31 2016.

“Spam texts are a real nuisance to millions of people across the country and this firm’s failure to follow the rules drove over 1000 people to complain,” said head of enforcement Steve Eckersley.

“I would urge anyone bothered by a spam text to report it, either via the ICO’s website or by forwarding the text to 7726. Your reports will help us crack down on those who fail to treat people’s information with the respect it deserves.”

Ashish Koul, president at Acqueon, argued that there’s no excuse for spamming users on this scale when technologies exist to keep firms compliant.

“These solutions are capable of checking hundreds of thousands of ‘Do Not Call/Contact’ (DNC) records in seconds – so that no erroneous texts are sent or calls are made during a campaign,” he added.

"Technology can also ensure that any contact – whether traditional telephone/SMS marketing or across digital channels such as email and social media – is as non-intrusive as possible and respects customers’ privacy. Organizations must therefore ensure they have the right systems in place to avoid making themselves the target of further fines and disgruntled customers.”

On a slightly smaller scale, the ICO has also fined a Greater Manchester used-car dealer £40,000 after it sent hundreds of thousands of spam texts to angry mobile users.

Radcliffe-based Concept Car Credit Limited is said to have sent out 300,0000 texts en masse, obtaining the data from other organizations. That meant it didn’t receive prior consent from the recipients.

The fines come just a week after the ICO levied an even higher financial penalty against Keurboom Communications Ltd: the firm behind 99.5 million nuisance calls.

The firm was fined £400,000 by the watchdog, but frustratingly has now been placed into voluntary liquidation, meaning the ICO has to recoup the money from insolvency practitioners.

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