ICO fines spam slinging financial services biz
It's all very well offering 'Free Debt Help,' but recipients were unwilling, says watchdog...
A financial services company that illegally dispatched tens of thousands of spam messages promising to help the recipients magically wipe away their debts is itself now a debtor to the UK’s data regulator.
Oldham-based LADH Limited was fined £50,000 [PDF] by the Information Commissioner’s Office late last week for sending more than 31,000 text messages over a six week period from March to April 2022 without valid consent.
Another aspect of the messaging blitzkrieg is that none of its texts offered any recipient the opportunity to opt out - again in contravention of the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations.
Examples of the text sent during the six weeks included:
Free Debt Help can consolidate your unaffordable payments, write off up to 85 percent of your total debt Check if you qualify text HELP or Stop2Stop.
FREE Government Debt Help can consolidate your unaffordable debt and write off up to 85 percent of your total debt. Check if you qualify by texting help.
Britain’s Spam Reporting Service received 106 complaints about the unwanted texts. During the course of its probing, LADH Limited said it had received “verbal assurance” that the data it had received from a third party included details of people that had given consent to be spammed - but it didn’t have written confirmation of this.
Andy Curry, head of investigations at the ICO, said:
“Sending unsolicited direct marketing messages is illegal and can be frustrating and distressing for people. All organisations using direct marketing messages are responsible for ensuring they have valid consent to contact every recipient.
“Relying on third-party claims of consent, without undertaking checks, leaves organisations open to our enforcement action if it turns out that people have, in actual fact, not given valid consent to be contacted.”
This is the third fine the ICO has made public in 2024, and it is clearly trying to send a message to cold callers and text message spammers across the land. Collection of those financial penalties is another matter.
- IT consultant fined for daring to expose shoddy security
- Why we update... Data-thief malware exploits SmartScreen on unpatched Windows PCs
- NHS England published heavily redacted Palantir contract as festivities began
- Programmable or 'purpose-bound' money is coming, probably as a feature in central bank digital currencies
According to estimates, the ICO collected just 26 percent of the value of the fines it issued in 2022, down from 32 percent in the prior year. Company directors of the small companies behind many nuisance callers are now personally responsible for fines, per a change made in 2018 to the PECR, but the appeals process is sluggish - as is debt recovery.
LADH Limited, for example, was incorporated in 2019 and files micro accounts, the last of which for fiscal 2021 shows net liabilities of almost £20,000.
If LADH agrees to settle the ICO penalty by February 12, a fifth of the £50,000 fine will be discounted. It could always choose to… appeal to the First-tier Tribunal.
Expect more calls, spams and unpaid fines in 2024, along with some that are paid. ®