News : ICO Issues Fines Over Spam Texts and Nuisance Calls
Cheshire, UK, June 13, 2016 -- A Manchester-based company behind thousands of spam texts and a business in Cheshire that hounded consumers with automated nuisance calls without their consent have been handed large fines by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO).
Manchester-based claims management firm Quigley and Carter has been fined £80,000 after its text messages prompted more than 2,600 complaints in two months, leading to an ICO investigation that found the company had broken the rules around direct marketing. The law says that organisations must only send marketing text messages to individuals if they have agreed to receive them, except where there is a clearly defined customer relationship.
Quigley and Carter contracted a third party to send the texts on its behalf but failed to check properly that the individuals to whom the messages were sent had consented to receive them. The text messages were directing individuals to Quigley and Carter's website, which offers services to do with mis-sold packaged bank accounts.
Stephen Eckersley, ICO head of enforcement, said: "People were left annoyed, angered and upset by these texts. The rules around electronic marketing messages are simple and there for a very good reason – to protect people's privacy rights and stop unwanted phone calls, texts and emails.
"We committed to target organisations that broke the rules. Quigley and Carter should have known the rules and obeyed them. They failed to follow the law and so we've acted – to show them and others that organisations cannot ignore their obligations."
In addition, the ICO has issued a £180,000 monetary penalty to Advanced VoIP Solutions in Cheshire as a result of an investigation prompted by 6,381 complaints from the public.
Complainants described receiving recorded messages relating to personal protection insurance, packaged bank accounts and flight delays. Some even described calls being repeated, sometimes up to 50 per day to single households, even though they had followed instructions in the message to opt out of the calls.
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The company co-ordinated its nuisance call campaign from Eyebrow Cottage, a listed building in a Manchester suburb.
Eckersley said: "The number of complaints in this case is just a drop in the ocean compared to the millions of calls we think this company has made. We have sent out a clear message to companies who behave in this way - however much you try and dodge the law, it won't work, and we will act."
This action was part of a wider investigation into a network of companies that included an ICO raid on a call centre in south Manchester. At the height of the automated call campaign, two phone network providers claimed their services had been disrupted by the large number of calls being made by the business.
Earlier this year, an ICO enforcement notice ordered Advanced VoIP to stop making nuisance calls or face legal action in a crackdown on the cottage industry behind the millions of automated calls. Investigators suspected the leads generated would have been used by the network of firms involved to make sizable profits.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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