ICSTIS, the premium rate watchdog, has dished out fines totalling £450,000 after getting tough on text spammers and scammers. Six overseas companies - Vertical Media Ltd, Fast Way Holdings Ltd, Litmus Ltd, Indiano Communications, Greenbay Ltd and Quartel Ltd - have each been slapped with fines of £75,000.
They were singled out for sending text spam, making unsolicited phone calls and using automated calling equipment to leave "missed calls" on mobile phones, tempting punters to phone back on premium-rate phone numbers costing up to £1.50 a minute. The regulator found that these companies deliberately tried to con people into calling premium-rate numbers to claim prizes that didn't exist or didn't match what was promised.
ICSTIS Director George Kidd said: "The case is of particular concern as the six companies all have the same UK agent operating on their behalf - a company called Smile Telecom, based in Bury - and all have the same mailing address. We have instructed redress to be paid to those affected but Smile Telecom has refused to compensate complainants unless requested to do so by its six clients."
Along with the £450,000 collective fine, ICSTIS has barred the six companies from operating in the UK. The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), communications regulator Ofcom and the police have also been called in to investigate the links between those involved.
Communications minister Stephen Timms chipped in: "Consumers who get ripped off by these scams will be pleased to see that justice has been done. These get-rich-quick schemes damage the reputations of legitimate operators. We are determined to work with ICSTIS and other groups to weed out these fraudsters and make sure that such scams are confined to the past." ®