Spammers convictedGaming company breached anti-spam laws.

12 September 2005

British companies who illegally spam consumers' mobile phones with calls and messages have had their own wake-up call from a landmark case in the Irish courts.

For the first time the Data Protection Commissioner for Ireland has successfully prosecuted a company for breaching the country's anti-spam law. There is a similar law in the UK - but no court cases yet.

Fours A Fortune Ltd - which calls itself 'Ireland's first online casino-like cash game' - was convicted of sending spam marketing to five mobile phones without the owners' consent.

It made thousands of calls, all to O2 customers and mostly through auto-diallers which hung up after two rings. These calls showed as missed, so some consumers rang back the landline number displayed. They were then put through to a recorded message which encouraged them to call a premium-rate number and play a game to win money.The company was fined €1,500 (£1,011) with costs of €1,000 (£674). The Irish authorities say that since the investigation began, numbers of complaints about similar promotions have dropped.

In the UK, organisations which use automated phone messages to promote their products or business must meet the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003. These say the company must get consent before they call.

But the Information Commissioner can only investigate complaints when it can identify the caller, and the caller is based in the UK.

If an automated call you don't recognise invites you to dial a premium-rate number, contact the premium-rate regulator Icstis for advice.