Fines For Companies Breaking Anti-Spam Rules Reach New Highs

The following is a guest contributed post from Henry Cazalet. Henry is Director and co-founder of The SMS Works which provides a low cost and reliable SMS API for developers. He’s been involved in the world of business SMS and mobile marketing since 1999. 

The ICO has been taking increasing interest in companies that break data protection and anti-spam rules and it’s not holding back in heavily fining organizations that are in breach of the regulations.

Since August 2015, The ICO has issued fines of over £8.7 million. The fines data, compiled by The SMS Works, reveals that in 2017 there was an increase in total fines of 58%, a rise from £2.9 million to £4.9 million.

The ICO can fine companies up to £400,000 for breaking the rules and figures reveal that they are using their powers with increasing frequency.

The Head of Enforcement at the ICO, Steve Eckersley stated,

“Companies who pester the pubic must understand they won’t get away with it. The ICO will take action.”

Improved complaints process

Making a complaint about spam has become quicker and more convenient in recent years. The ICO’s excellent ‘report a concern’ section on its website makes it easy and efficient to report spam.

We’re becoming increasingly intolerant of companies that pester us with spam and are far more likely to report rather than ignore spam.

Nuisance phone calls attract highest fines

46% (£4,017,000) of all penalties issued since August 2015 were for spam phones calls.

Automated calling platforms have been used by unscrupulous companies to target people at home on a massive scale.

In May 2017, Keurboom Communications, a company behind a staggering 99.5 million nuisance calls was fined a record £400,000 by the ICO.

 “These calls have now stopped but our work has not. We’ll continue to track down companies that blight people’s lives with nuisance calls, texts and emails.”
Steve Eckersley – ICO

Data breach fines on the rise

With GDPR arriving in May 2018, companies need to be aware of their responsibilities for handling consumer data and understand the potential consequences of failing to do so.

Since August 2015, 34% (£2,996,501) of all fines issued were for data breaches, with a total of 41 organisations facing a penalty.

One of the highest profile data breaches was by Talk Talk Telecom in October 2016.

They were fined £400,000 for security failings that allowed a cyber attacker to access the personal data of 155959 customers and the bank details of 15656.

Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham commented,

“TalkTalk’s failure to implement the most basic cyber security measures allowed hackers to penetrate TalkTalk’s systems with ease.”

Financial services top the fines chart

Financial services was the most fined industry sector. 24 separate penalties have been handed out since August 2015, accounting for 23% of all fines issued.

Surprisingly, the charities sector was the second most fined. 11 monetary penalties were announced, 10.5% of all fines issued.

Charities mainly fell foul of data protection rules. Fines were often for sharing and ‘enriching’ data with other organisations, without the consumer having given permission for this to happen.

SMS spam fines top £100,000

The average fine for SMS spamming was £108,000, while the average for email spam was a more modest £40,000.

SMS spam is far more intrusive than email so is more likely to generate higher numbers of compaints.

SMS spam has almost completely disappeared now, in large part due to the efforts of the ICO. It wasn’t long ago that we were all receiving endless spam from PPI, payday loan and accident claims companies.

Outlook poor for spammers, brighter for consumers

What this fines data makes clear is that there is no place to hide for anyone considering spamming. Ignorance of the rules will be no defence.

With the ICO taking such a tough line on companies that break the rules, we could be entering a new golden, spam free era where our inboxes and mobiles remain free of clutter and our junk folders strangely empty.

All fines data was released by the ICO and compiled by SMS API provider, The SMS Works.