Text spammers cop record fine as watchdog cracks down

Two directors of company that sent out millions of unsolicited texts fined £440,000 by information commissioner

LAST UPDATED AT 15:24 ON Wed 28 Nov 2012

TWO MEN who sent millions of spam text messages to phone users in the UK have been fined £440,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). It is the first time the watchdog has used new powers to impose hefty fines for the misuse of personal information, says The BBC.

Christopher Niebel and Gary McNeish, directors of Manchester-based Tetrus Telecoms, were part of an industry that obtains people’s details to send messages encouraging them to claim for accidents and wrongly sold insurance policies. The men were fined £440,000 between them today for breaching the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003.

Tetrus offered to send out more than 800,000 texts a day on behalf of its clients. The messages would be familiar to any phone user in the UK: "CLAIM TODAY, you may be entitled to £3,500 for the accident you had," for example.

The ICO says Tetrus was using 70 mobile phone SIM cards a day to send out unsolicited text messages. The cards were inserted into a card reader connected to a computer which would dispatch messages until each card's text message limit was reached.

The information commissioner, Christopher Graham says the public is "distressed and annoyed" by the bombardment of spam texts and the watchdog will crack down on the growing trade "using the full force of the law".

Niebel claimed his company had permission to send out texts because the recipients had been given their "consent" to be contacted.

In a statement, he said he had not been provided with evidence from the ICO to support the allegations against him. He intended to challenge the fine.

But Graham says Niebel and McNeish knew they were breaking the law and made "a substantial profit" from their activities. Records seized by the ICO suggest Tetrus Telecoms was making sales of more than £7,000 a day and its directors were earning tens of thousands of pounds.

Meanwhile, The Guardian says another eight companies may face similar fines as the ICO focuses its attention on what is a growing trade in unsolicited texts. · 

Disqus - noscript

Hurray! It should be a crime, then they could lose their homes too! Happy days.

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.