Two companies fined for spamming millions with unwanted text messages

email data breach

The Information Commissioners Office (ICO) took action when hundreds of complaints poured in over spam text messages. The ICO, the regulatory body for Data Protection here in the UK, investigated the matter and found that two companies were responsible for millions of unwanted text messages being sent out to hundreds of thousands of people.

Silver City Tech Ltd and Oracle Insurance Brokers Ltd were responsible for using an affiliate service to spam people with annoying messages.

Messages read along the lines of things like:

“Katie, you’ve been accepted for a loan, Today! Nothing to pay back for months, no credit checks – get funds now at www.payday2day.co.uk to stop txt stop”

The ICO received at least 659 complaints within the space of 7 months.

Silver City Tech Ltd was given a fine of £100,000 whereas Oracle Insurance Brokers Ltd had a much lesser fine of £30,000. Silver City was found to have sent around 3 million of these texts, and Oracle sent some 136,369 texts (not as many, but still just as annoying though!). In the ICO’s enforcement report, it was clear that the two companies had absolutely no evidence that the receivers consented to receiving such text messages. Without that consent, the two companies were breaking the law.

Prohibited behaviour

The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulation (PECR) explicitly prohibits this kind of behaviour. Regulation 22 provides that if anyone is to communicate electronically, they must only do so with consent. Directly sending text messages this way is not only illegal, but it can be extremely annoying and / or distressing. Text messages are often much more direct than emails as they are sent to a mobile phone, and mobile phones are typically personal devices that the user carries with them so they can be reached quickly, especially in an emergency. No one appreciates getting direct spam texts when a mobile phone’s purpose is for work or to keep in contact with family and friends.

By directly contacting people for their marketing purposes, Oracle may have had a commercial advantage over their competitors, as noticed by the ICO. This is unlawful and may be breaching Competition laws as well as privacy and data laws.

Shifting responsibility

The two companies tried to defend themselves by saying that they didn’t directly send the texts, and that an external affiliate did. Unfortunately for them, the ICO blasted this attempted defence and told them it was their responsibility.

ICO enforcement group manager, Andy Curry said:

“Affiliate firms are like postmen, delivering the message …it’s the people behind the message whose job it is to make sure it complies with the law.”

This kind of nuisance should not be tolerated. If you have received something similar, please report it.

IMPORTANT: advice on this page is intended to be up-to-date for the 'first published date'.

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