£440,000 fine for senders of millions of spam textsICO action on spam is welcome, but overdue

01 December 2012


The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has fined the owners of a marketing company £440,000 for sending millions of unlawful spam texts over the past three years.

Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd said: 'With more than 30,000 unsolicited calls and texts reported to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) over the last six months alone, tough action from the ICO on companies who bombard consumers with unsolicited communications is overdue but welcome.

'Phone operators should do more to provide spam filtering technology to help their customers get rid of nuisance text messages, and we urge operators to make these available across all networks. We want to see a joined up approach across government and network providers to ensure consumers are protected and offenders are prosecuted.'

  • Read our guide to Dealing with unwanted texts and phone calls for tips to stop nuisance calls and report spam to the ICO or your mobile provider.

ICO fine for spam calls and texts

The penalty is the first imposed by the ICO for a serious breach of the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) since it received these powers in January 2012.

The ICO is also considering issuing penalties to three other companies believed to be acting in breach of the regulations.

Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham, said: '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.'

Owners of Tetrus Telecoms fined

The fine was imposed on the owners of Tetrus Telecoms, Christopher Niebel and Gary McNeish. The company 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. Any replies were used to generate leads that were sold to other companies at a considerable profit, according to the ICO.

The evidence showed that Tetrus was using unregistered pay as you go sim cards to send as many as 840,000 illegal text messages a day, generating a daily income of £7,000 to £8,000.

Examples of the text messages sent out by Tetrus Telecoms include:

  • CLAIM TODAY you may be entitled to £3500 for the accident you had. To claim free, reply CLAIM to this message. To opt out text STOP. Thank you
  • URGENT! If you took out a Bank Loan prior to 2007 then you are almost certainly entitled to £2300 in compensation. To claim reply 'YES'
  • You have still not claimed the compensation you are due for the accident you had. To claim then pls reply CLAIM. To opt out text STOP

More on this…

  • Dealing with unwanted texts and phone calls – our guide to get rid of spam
  • Fed up with pesky spam texts? – have your say on Which? Conversation
  • Online banking security – we test the security of bank websites