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ICO ramps up enforcement on illegal marketing

The ICO has issued a press release stating that it has handed out monetary penalties totalling £440,000 to two rogue marketers, who for three years, sent millions of spam text messages to the public.

It is the first time that the UK regulator has issued a monetary penalty under the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR), since its new powers were approved in January 2012. The fines come after 18 months of investigation by the ICO into the company.

Christopher Graham, the Information Commissioner, was quoted as saying, “The public have told us that they are distressed and annoyed by the constant bombardment of illegal texts and calls” and that the ICO will respond “using the full force of the law.” When interviewed on Radio 4, Graham referred to the compliance efforts made by the DMA and was at pains to explain the difference between these spam texts – often sent to randomly generated numbers – and legitimate SMS marketing to consented lists.

One of the accused, Christopher Niebel has denied the allegations and is appealing the fine, claiming “the ICO have decided to undertake a publicity campaign in respect of the matter when their allegations and the conduct of their investigation, have not been subject to examination before the court”.

The pair also face sanctions for failing to notify the ICO that the company, Tetrus Telecoms, was processing personal information, which is a requirement under the Data Protection Act and punishable by £5,000 fine in a Magistrates Court or an unlimited fine in the Crown Court.

The ICO is considering issuing penalties to three other companies, as it continues to crack down on these illegal marketing practices.


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