The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has served a penalty of £175,000 ($285,000, AU$319,000) to pay day loans company First Financial. An investigation discovered that the company was responsible for sending millions of unlawful spam texts.
Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PERC), which govern electronic marketing, require organisations to have an individual's permission before sending marketing content by text. 4,301 complaints were made against messages from First Financial, which the ICO found to have been sent without consent.
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The messages claimed to be sent by one the recipient's friends, saying that they had been given substantial amounts of money by First Financial, before adding a link to their website. This act also prompted separate action from the Advertising Standards Agency.
The spam texts were sent using un-registered SIM cards, a common method used to avoid detection. The fact that the content of the messages were similar and all pointed at a trading name owned by First Financial meant that the responsible firm could be found without much effort.
ICO director of operations, Simon Entwisle, said "We will continue to target these companies that continue to blight the daily lives of people across the UK. We are also currently speaking with the government to get the legal bar lowered, allowing us to take action at a much earlier stage."
The company's former director, Hamed Shabani, was prosecuted in October this year after failing to notify the ICO of First Financial's processing of personal information, a legal requirement under the Data Protection Act. Despite claiming to have no affiliation with the company, he was fined £1,180 ($1,900, AU$2,100).
Entwisle said: "The fact that this individual tried to distance himself from the unlawful activities of his company shows the kind of individuals we're dealing with here."
The ICO previously fined Tetrus Telecoms £440,000 ($717,000 AU$802,000) for sending millions of unsolicited texts in November 2012.