Two companies responsible for millions of spam texts offering easy access to loans have been fined by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

Separate ICO investigations into Dorset-based Silver City Tech Ltd and Oracle Insurance Brokers Ltd, in London, found the firms had broken the law because they did not have the consent of the people the text messages were sent to.

Both companies told ICO investigators it was a third party company which had sent the texts on their behalf, a practice known as affiliate marketing. Since Silver City Tech and Oracle Insurance Brokers instigated the messages, it was their responsibility under law to check the people being sent them had specifically consented to receiving marketing texts.

Andy Curry, ICO enforcement group manager, 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. They must make rigorous checks to ensure the rules have been followed.”

Silver City Tech, fined £100,000 by the ICO, was found to be behind over three million texts in around five months. An example of the type of message sent is:

“Maxine, we have received your details and could arrange £500 over six months. Click for cash. 1270% rep APR, 292% int. Stop2 opt out.”

Oracle Insurance Brokers was found to be responsible for around 136,000 texts and has been fined £30,000.

The ICO’s investigations were triggered by complaints from the public about nuisance marketing.

Mr Curry said:

“Hundreds of people have complained to us about spam texts relating to payday loans this year, showing it is a real problem for the public. These reports help inform our investigations so we can take action against the wrongdoers.”

People can report spam texts by forwarding them to 7726 or going to ico.org.uk/concerns.

The Government has recently announced plans to introduce fines of up to £500,000 for company directors heading up nuisance marketing firms. The new law is expected to come into force next spring. The ICO’s recent blog, Closing the back door on nuisance call directors, gives more details.

Notes to Editors

  1. The Information Commissioner’s Office upholds information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.
  1. The ICO has specific responsibilities set out in the Data Protection Act 1998, the Freedom of Information Act 2000, Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003.
  1. The ICO can take action to change the behaviour of organisations and individuals that collect, use and keep personal information. This includes criminal prosecution, non-criminal enforcement and audit. The ICO has the power to impose a monetary penalty on a data controller of up to £500,000.
  1. The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) sit alongside the Data Protection Act. They give people specific privacy rights in relation to electronic communications.

There are specific rules on:

marketing calls, emails, texts and faxes;

cookies (and similar technologies);

keeping communications services secure; and

customer privacy as regards traffic and location data, itemised billing, line identification, and directory listings.

We aim to help organisations comply with PECR and promote good practice by offering advice and guidance. We will take enforcement action against organisations that persistently ignore their obligations.

  1. Civil Monetary Penalties (CMPs) are subject to a right of appeal to the (First-tier Tribunal) General Regulatory Chamber against the imposition of the monetary penalty and/or the amount of the penalty specified in the monetary penalty notice.
  1. Any monetary penalty is paid into the Treasury’s Consolidated Fund and is not kept by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
  2. To report a concern to the ICO telephone our helpline 0303 123 1113 or go to ico.org.uk/concerns.