Who: The Information Commissioner’s Office (“ICO”) and UKMS Money Solutions Ltd, Nuisance Call Blocker Ltd and Telecom Protection Services Ltd
When: 23 and 25 November 2015
Law stated as at: 14 December 2015
Last month the ICO imposed fines for spam marketing against three separate companies, totalling £250,000.
Telephone Preference Service
£170,000 worth of fines was issued against two companies, continuing the ICO’s crackdown on nuisance calls. The companies were Nuisance Call Blocker Limited (fined £90,000) and Telecom Protection Services Limited (fined £80,000) and both companies were contacting people registered with the Telephone Preference Service.
Ironically, both companies were cold calling potential customers and attempting to sell products and services designed to prevent cold calling. In addition to the fines issued by the ICO, the companies were also issued with enforcement notices, the breach of which is a criminal offence, and Trading Standards have now opened investigations into both companies.
The remaining £80,000 worth of fines was imposed against UKMS Money Solutions Limited (“UKMS”). After 1405 complaints were made about unsolicited text messages sent by UKMS, they replied to ICO’s enquiry saying that the texts were only sent to individuals who had opted in to receive them.
When asked by ICO to provide evidence of that consent, UKMS said that the consent language relied on was as follows:
“To receive offers, discounts and information about our competitions, promotions, updates and products either by sms, telephone or direct mail…together with products or services offered jointly with or on behalf of other organisations, please tick the box to opt in your contact information and confirm that you are age 18 years and over.”
ICO said this wording was not sufficient to amount to consent for the purposes of Regulation 22 of the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003.
UKMS had sent over 1.3 million spam texts during a nine week marketing campaign.
Why this matters:
Both announcements serve as important reminders for marketing companies about the essential steps that must be taken during the pre-campaign stage, namely (i) checking off intended contacts against the Telephone Preference Service’s register before unsolicited marketing calls are made; and (ii) checking that valid consent has been given by potential contacts on lists obtained from list brokers (or other third parties). It is not possible to tell from the ICO’s announcements to what extent (if any) these failings resulted from oversights of the company and to what extent they were intentional acts, which may have had some influence on the level of the fines. Regardless, the ICO is clearly taking a robust approach against nuisance marketing, given that these fines will bring the total amount of fines issued by the ICO over the last four months around nuisance marketing to £1 million.
This action by the ICO also forms part of a wider crackdown on nuisance calls that has seen the ICO contact 1,000 list brokers, demanding that they provide a detailed explanation to the ICO on how they comply with the law. Thomas Spanyol discusses this recent approach of the ICO in his recent MarketingLaw.co.uk article.