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November 28, 2012

Text spammers handed £400,000 fine

Tetrus Telecoms sent up to 840,000 texts per day, making hundreds of thousands of pounds

By Steve Evans

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has fined the owners of Tetrus Telecoms £440,000 for sending millions of spam text messages over the last three years.

The fine is the culmination of an investigation lasting 18 months, the ICO said, and is the first time the organisation has issued a fine for breaching the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) since it was handed powers to do so in January 2012.

The ICO said Tetrus Telecoms sent millions of spam text messages out to thousands of mobile phones over a three year period. The company did not identify itself when sending the messages nor did it have the consent of the recipient – both of which are legal requirements under the PECR.

Raids on the offices of Tetrus Telecoms as well as the home of Christopher Niebel, one of the owners, revealed that up to 840,000 text messages were sent out every day from unregistered pay as you go SIM cards. Niebel and Gary McNeish, the other owner, were making £7,000 – £8,000 a day by selling the details of anyone who replied to their texts.

Niebel has been ordered to pay £300,000 of the total fine as the ICO claimed he took more out of the business.

"The two individuals we have served penalties on today made a substantial profit from the sale of personal information. They knew they were breaking the law and the trail of evidence uncovered by my office highlights the scale of their operations," said Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham.

Graham added that the ICO is also investigating three other companies for similar offences.

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"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," he said.

"We will continue to work with the relevant authorities as well as the network providers to ensure companies like this are punished. We’re also working with the Ministry of Justice to target claims management companies who purchase this information breaching the industry regulations, the Data Protection Act, as well as electronic marketing regulations," he added.

Graham went on to say that members of the public who receive texts regarding PPI repayments or offering compensation for an accident should simply ignore them.

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