ICO serves SMS spammers £440,000 fine

The UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has cracked down on SMS spammers by fining two men a total of £440,000. Tetrus Telecoms, jointly owned by Christopher Niebel and Gary McNeish, was found to have “plagued the public with millions of unlawful spam texts” over the past three years, according to the ICO.

The body carried out an 18-month investigation on the company after receiving intelligence in May 2011 that it was sending huge volumes of unsolicited text messages from offices in Stockport and Birmingham, without the consent of the recipient and without identifying the sender – both of which are legal requirements under UK law.

Tetrus was using unregistered pay as you go SIM cards to send out as many as 840,000 illegal text messages a day, and received income of between £7,000 and £8,000 each day as a result.

The public have told us that they are distressed and annoyed by the constant bombardment of illegal texts and calls and we are currently cracking down on the companies responsible, using the full force of the law,” said information commissioner Christopher Graham.

This is the first time that the ICO has used its power to issue a monetary penalty for a breach of the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR).

Julian Hucker, CEO at SMS solutions provider Esendex added that it is vital to stamp out text spam as industry forecasts show that revenues from SMS operators will dwarf other messaging methods.

“This is because of  its ubiquity, reach and reliability,” he said. “Unlike email for instance, which suffers as a result of huge volumes of spam, SMS messages are trusted and therefore it feels like a greater violation when an unwanted message is received. We definitely want to see the integrity of SMS preserved and welcome the efforts of the ICO to stamp out spam messaging.”

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