The company behind a taxi booking app has been fined £45,000 by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) for breaking the law on sending unsolicited text messages.

Cab Guru Limited was set up by a consortium of licensed taxi and private hire firms to create an app allowing customers to compare fares and pickup times and then book their selected cab.

The Cambridge-based company promoted the service by sending unlawful direct marketing texts inviting customers from some of the cab firms which had invested in the new venture to download the app.

Between 27 May and 5 June 2016, 165 complaints were made to the spam text reporting service run by mobile phone industry body the GSMA concerning unsolicited marketing texts sent by Cab Guru. A further complaint was made direct to the ICO using the Online Reporting Tool.

Cab Guru said it had carried out a one-day text marketing campaign using numbers provided by five of its shareholder firms. A total of 706,650 messages were sent, of which 360,373 were received.                               

The company couldn't provide any evidence that the customers had consented to being contacted by Cab Guru in this way.

Andy Curry, ICO Enforcement Group Manager, said:

"Just because an organisation might have a person's mobile phone number in its records, that doesn't mean it can call or send them marketing messages without their consent. This also applies to any associated companies.

"It also doesn't matter whether you do this for a single day or every day for a year – most mobile users hate receiving unsolicited spam texts and the ICO will continue to take action against firms which send them."

The GSMA is an organisation which represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide. People can report unsolicited marketing texts to it by forwarding the message to 7726 (spelling out "SPAM") and the ICO is given access to the GSMA's complaints data.

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.
  2. 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. 
  3. 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.
  4. The European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a new law which will apply in the UK from 25 May 2018. The Government has confirmed the UK's decision to leave the EU will not affect the commencement of the GDPR. The Government is introducing measures related to this and wider data protection reforms in a Data Protection Bill.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Any monetary penalty is paid into the Treasury's Consolidated Fund and is not kept by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO).
  8. To report a concern to the ICO telephone our helpline 0303 123 1113 or go to ico.org.uk/concerns.