In a clampdown on the UK’s growing illegal telemarketing, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) issued its first monetary penalties under the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2011 (PECR) in November.

Following an 18-month investigation, Christopher Niebel and Gary McNeish of Tetrus Telecoms were fined £300,000 and £140,000 respectively for distributing up to 840,000 illegal spam marketing texts per day over the past three years. By doing so, they violated the PECR rules requiring marketers to identify themselves, and by not offering an opt-out mechanism for recipients. When recipients responded, even by testing “stop,” the pair allegedly sold the personal data to claims-management agencies.

The ICO recommends that the public does not respond and instead deletes the messages. If an individual replies positively to a message offering compensation for a road accident or mis-sold Payment Protection Insurance (PPI), their personal information will be passed to a claims-management company, which can then receive substantial commission by selling their case to a solicitor

Despite having issued these punitive fines, the ICO claims to continue to receive complaints, is considering issuing a further three penalties to companies engaged in illegal marketing activities, and is currently carrying out five separate investigations.