A Fareham firm has been hit with a £100,000 fine from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) for sending millions of spam texts about mobile phone upgrades.

The ICO’s investigation, informed by more than 1,000 complaints from the public, found Onecom Limited broke the law which sets out strict rules about the consent people must give to receive marketing text messages.

Steve Eckersley, ICO Head of Enforcement, said:

“Spam texts are a real nuisance to millions of people across the country and this firm’s failure to follow the rules drove over 1,000 people to complain.

“I would urge anyone bothered by a spam text to report it, either via the ICO’s website or by forwarding the text to 7726. Your reports will help us crack down on those who fail to treat people’s information with the respect it deserves.”

Between 26 October 2015 and 2 June 2016, 1,050 complaints were made to the 7726 spam text reporting service, or directly to the ICO, about the text messages.

Onecom could not provide evidence to the ICO explaining the source of the data used to send the 1,050 text messages. The firm could also not provide evidence that it had consent to send the text messages. Onecom confirmed it had sent 3.3m text messages between 1 October 2015 and 31 March 2016. 

People can report nuisance calls, texts and emails at ico.org.uk. 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

  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. 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.

  1. 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.
  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).
  1. To report a concern to the ICO telephone our helpline 0303 123 1113 or go to ico.org.uk/concerns