The Information Commissioner’s Office today fined two owners of a marketing company £440,000 after they plagued the public with millions of spam texts.
The ICO used its power to issue a monetary penalty for the first time after the pair were found to have breached the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations that came into force in January. The commissioner’s office is also considering fines for three other companies as it continues its crackdown on the illegal marketing industry.
Today’s penalty followed an 18-month investigation into the activities of Tetrus Telecoms, jointly owned by Christopher Niebel and Gary McNeish.
The ICO received intelligence in May 2011 that the company was sending huge volumes of unsolicited texts from offices in Stockport and Birmingham, without the consent of the recipient and without identifying the sender. The texts were largely related to personal injury and PPI claims.
The ICO’s investigation included raids at the company’s Stockport premises, in August 2011, and the Manchester home of Niebel, in February this year.
The evidence obtained showed Tetrus was using unregistered pay-as-you-go sim cards to send out as many as 840,000 illegal text messages a day, generating income of £7,000 - £8,000 a day.
Niebel has been ordered to pay a penalty of £300,000, while McNeish has been fined £140,000.
Information commissioner, Christopher Graham, said: ‘The public have told us that they are distressed and annoyed by the constant bombardment of illegal texts and calls and we are currently cracking down on the companies responsible, using the full force of the law.
‘In March we set up a survey on the ICO website so people can tell us about any unwanted texts and calls they have been receiving.
‘So far we have received over 60,000 responses. We know the majority of these messages and calls have been made by companies who try to remain anonymous in the hope they can profit by selling personal information to claims management companies and other marketing organisations.’