Regulation  

Payday loan firm fined £175k for unlawful spam texts

A payday loan company has been fined £175,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office after sending millions of illegal spam texts.

First Financial sent unsolicited messages to consumers, often claiming to be from friends who recommended the company and provided a link to a website.

The spam texts, which sparked 4,031 complaints to the ICO, were sent using unregistered Sim cards in order to avoid detection. However, the ICO traced the website link provided in the texts back to firstpaydayloanuk.co.uk, a trading name of First Financial.

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The ICO ruled that the company breached privacy and electronic communications regulations, which stipulate that organisations must seek the individual’s prior consent before sending them any electronic marketing.

The company’s former sole director, Hamed Shabani, was also prosecuted and fined £1,180.66 in October after breaching the data protection act. Mr Shabani, who claimed to have no affiliation with the company, had failed to notify the ICO of First Financial’s processing of personal information.

Simon Entwisle, director of operations at the ICO, said: “People are fed up with this menace and they are not willing to be bombarded with nuisance calls and text messages at all times of the day trying to get them to sign up to high interest loans. The fact that this individual tried to distance himself from the unlawful activities of his company shows the kind of individuals we’re dealing with here.”

Richard Lloyd, executive director of consumer group Which?, said: “Consumers need the regulators to get tough to stop companies persistently bombarding us with unwanted calls and texts so the ICO fine is another welcome step to keep the pressure on firms who break the rules.

“The government must make it easier for regulators to take enforcement action and we look forward to seeing their upcoming action plan for tackling nuisance calls and texts.”

Which? had previously found that half of all consumers have received an unsolicited text on their mobile phone in recent times, while three in 10 said they receive more unsolicited texts than they did six months ago.