Should the ICO be given more powers to tackle this problem?
Should the ICO be given more powers to tackle this problem?

A finance firm based in London has been fined £70,000 by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), in retaliation for its contracted marketing firm sending out some 2.2 million unsolicited SMS messages.

The marketing company's name is not known, however Nouveau Finance was slapped with the fine as a result of 92 complaints to the ICO based on the marketing firm's activities.

The fine which was dealt on Monday, is in response to the Finchley-based loan broker commissioning the text messages from the marketing firm, but failing to ensure their activities were within the law.

In accordance with UK law, companies must ensure individuals they contact aren't listed on  the Telephone Preference Service which is for individuals who have opted out of marketing calls, and also must obtain prior permission before sending marketing communications.

Speaking on the Nouveau Finance fine, Steve Eckersley, the ICO's head of enforcement said “relying on another company to do your marketing is not a get-out clause when it comes to the law."

Eckersley added: “Our investigation found that despite relying heavily on direct marketing for its business, the company did not seem to understand the rules around electronic marketing and that's not good enough. The law is there for a reason, it's to stop companies inundating people with unwanted messages.”

The news comes as according to the ICO, companies given fines for unlawful activities rarely pay ICO fines. Andy Curry, the ICO's enforcement group manager, wrote on the bodies blog that he fears Nouveau Finance is representative of a cottage industry operating across the UK.

The term refers to types of companies that are often smaller limited companies, who if slapped with a fine simply put the company into liquidation to avoid paying the fines. Curry said, "the problem end of this sector is characterised by small marketing companies that pay little heed to the rules. Setting up an operation that can make millions of calls is unfortunately surprisingly easy, with little outlay required on equipment, premises or staff."

As of 24/10/2016 only six of the 27 fines imposed by the ICO have been paid, narrowly avoiding the April 2015 laws that granted the ICO powers to enforce financial penalties on companies in the UK.

The ICO says it is owed roughly £2.26 million in unpaid fines by unlawful marketing firms, and has said it is using "all means available" including the courts and insolvency practitioners to recoup the debt from companies who have chosen the route of liquidation.