The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has taken action against two nuisance marketing firms, continuing its fight against companies that flout the rules.
Separate ICO investigations have resulted in PRS Media, trading as Purus Digital, being fined £140,000 for sending around 4.4 million spam texts and Xternal Property Renovations being fined £80,000 for making nuisance phone calls.
The ICO found Dyfed firm PRS Media, trading as Purus Digital, did not have the consent of the 4.4 million people it sent marketing texts to.
The company, based in Dale in Haverfordwest, said that the information used to send the text messages had been obtained from its own competition website.
People were required to sign up to marketing as a condition of entering competitions on the firm’s website. This is not proper consent.
People must give consent to receive marketing text messages. The law says that people must have a genuine choice over whether or not to consent to marketing.
Xternal Property Renovations
Glasgow firm Xternal Property Renovations broke the law by making more than 109,000 calls to people registered with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS).
People registered with the TPS have opted out of receiving marketing calls.
The ICO found that the company, which provides property and maintenance repairs services, should have screened the list of people it planned to call against the details of TPS subscribers and made sure its telesales staff knew how to comply with the law.
Examples of complaints about the calls made by Xternal Property Renovations include:
- “I get these calls from early in the morning until late at night. I’m disabled and I worry about these calls.”
- “I was concerned about how this company got my details – particularly my name. My number is TPS-registered and has been ex-directory for more than 30 years.”
Xternal Property Renovations has also been issued with a legal notice compelling it to stop instigating the unlawful marketing calls.
Ken Macdonald, Head of ICO Regions, said:
“Nuisance marketing, whether it’s by calls to people’s landline or mobile, or through spam texts, causes disruption, annoyance and, in the worst cases, serious upset.
“We issue fines like these to firms behind nuisance marketing to send a clear message that such action will not be tolerated.”
“The ICO is looking forward to the commencement of our new powers, announced by the government last year, which will allow us to fine the directors of nuisance marketing firms as well as the companies themselves. This will enable us to take even more of a stand against the firms causing distress and intrusion to people’s lives.”
The ICO’s investigations into these firms were prompted by complaints from members of the public. People can report nuisance calls, texts and emails at ico.org.uk/concerns. Spam texts can also be reported by forwarding them to 7726.
The ICO has published detailed guidance for firms carrying out direct marketing by phone, text, email, post or fax.
Notes to Editors
- The Information Commissioner’s Office upholds information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The rules on electronic mail marketing (which includes text messages) are in regulation 22 of PECR. In short, you must not send electronic mail marketing to individuals, unless:
- they have specifically consented to electronic mail from you; or
- they are an existing customer who bought (or negotiated to buy) a similar product or service from you in the past, and you gave them a simple way to opt out both when you first collected their details and in every message you have sent.
You must not disguise or conceal your identity, and you must provide a valid contact address so they can opt out or unsubscribe.
- The ICO took over responsibility for overseeing the TPS from Ofcom in December 2016. The TPS is a free service for mobile and landline phone users that allows them to opt out of receiving cold calls.
- 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.
- Any monetary penalty is paid into the Treasury’s Consolidated Fund and is not kept by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
- To report a concern to the ICO telephone our helpline 0303 123 1113 or go to ico.org.uk/concerns.