The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has fined pay day loans company First Financial £175,000 for sending millions of spam texts.
First Financial was found to have breached the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR), which require organisations to have an individual’s consent before sending marketing text messages.
The company’s former sole director, Hamed Shabani, was prosecuted and fined by the ICO on 8 October 2013 after he failed to notify the regulator that First Financial was processing personal information. This is a legal requirement under the Data Protection Act (DPA).
ICO issued the latest penalty after 4,031 complaints were made against messages sent from numbers that were found to be from First Financial.
The texts were sent using unregistered SIM cards, as a way to avoid detection. However, the ICO found that the content of the messages were similar and referred recipients to a website belonging to firstpaydayloanuk.co.uk, which is a trading name used by First Financial.
Meanwhile, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld complaints over the language used in the texts, some of which claimed to be from recipient’s friends. For example: “Hi Mate hows u? I’m still out of town, just got £850 in my account from these guys www.firstpaydayloanuk.co.uk.”
It ruled that the text message ads should be clearly identifiable as marketing material.
Simon Entwisle, ICO director of operations, 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.”