ICO blog: Illegal marketing clampdown begins as spam texters set for six figure fine

Many people have experienced the irritation of having received unwanted marketing calls or spam texts. Over recent months we have seen a rise in the number of complaints. Tackling this problem is a key priority for the ICO and we are currently chasing up leads and investigating complaints in order to identify the rogue companies behind this.

Since March of this year we have been asking members of the public to report any calls or texts they have received from an unknown sender using an online survey. This information allows us to generate the intelligence required for us to focus our investigations on those organisations responsible for making unsolicited communications. This is especially useful in relation to automated calls and text messages, areas of concern that are not covered by services such as the TPS.

In the past six months we have received almost 30,000 responses and we are working to link these numbers to companies with a view to possible enforcement action.

All of this work has led us to where we are today with the ICO poised to issue our first monetary penalty notices. Letters have gone out today to two individuals that we have found to have broken the law. Subject to final ratification, the recommendations total well over a quarter of a million pounds. Further details about each case will be revealed once we are able to formally announce our action next month; however this is an important step that shows those who blatantly break the law will be in line for a sizeable six figure penalty from the ICO.

While companies can phone you to sell you the latest product or service, the law states that individuals should not receive unsolicited texts or automated marketing calls unless they have given their permission. Marketing companies are also forbidden from phoning individuals registered with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) unless they have given their explicit consent. While honest mistakes can occasionally be made we will look to take action against individuals and companies that continue to break the law.

We know that many of the companies making illegal marketing calls and sending spam texts try to operate below the radar, however we have been analysing information from relevant bodies, such as the TPS, as well as our own complaints figures in order to identify the most complained about companies. We then wrote to companies who featured at the top of these complaint lists to request details of how they were making sure they complied with the law. From the responses we received, eight companies are now being investigated further and have been warned that they may face further action unless they can prove that they are compliant.

I’ve answered some FAQs on spam texts and sales calls. NB: playing YouTube video sets a cookie – more info.


Simon EntwisleSimon Entwisle is responsible for all the ICO’s operational functions, including Customer Contact, Case Resolution, Enforcement and Good Practice as well as the Assistant Commissioners in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
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