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1RT Group fined £5,000 for fax spam

Abuse of premium-rate numbers

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A company has been fined more than £5,000 over the sending of fax spam. The company, 1RT Group Ltd, claimed not to be ultimately responsible for the faxes but regulator ICSTIS found that it was.

Regulator ICSTIS (Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of the Telephone Information Services) classified two cases involving 1RT as 'serious' and fined it £3,500 in one case and £2,250 in the other.

ICSTIS polices the use of premium rate numbers, which were in operation in each case, and had received complaints about two unsolicited commercial fax campaigns, one promoting a competition and the other promoting a posture-correcting chair.

In each case 1RT was the phone network registered with ICSTIS and in each case it claimed that it was not the 'service provider' under the terms of the ICSTIS Code because it was acting on behalf of other companies.

In both rulings the ICSTIS panel said that 1RT's action "demonstrated more involvement in the premium rate service than merely providing network facilities," it said. "The Panel noted specific characteristics of 1RT which it concluded were sufficient to demonstrate that it was the service provider for the purposes of the Code."

The faxes both asked for responses from recipients, but the response numbers were premium rate numbers. In one of the cases one complainant said that they did not know how long a responding fax would take to send and that they were held on the expensive line for seven minutes.

In that fax's case the ICSTIS Secretariat had claimed that the pricing information was not prominent enough, but the panel did not uphold that claim. It did, though, uphold the claim that the faxes were sent to private fax numbers, were unsolicited and represented marketing material.

It also found that some of the complaints were from people whose numbers were registered with the Fax Preference Service (FPS), which is a list of people who have asked not to receive commercial faxes. Though 1RT said that it had ensured that no FPS registered numbers received the faxes, the panel said that one of the complaints had come from someone who said their number was FPS registered.

The company was issued in both cases with a formal reprimand and with a bar on access to any fax service for six months.

The penalties stand in contrast to those for email spam, which is much harder to police. Because a company must register with ICSTIS in order to use a premium rate line there is always an audit trail back to a network provider.

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OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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