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'Unsolicited texts' outrage: Man fined £4k for DPA breach

But it WASN'T about any SMSes

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

The owner of a marketing company which allegedly sent "millions of unsolicited text messages" was prosecuted for "failing to notify the ICO of changes to his notification" at Willesden Magistrates Court last week.

Jayesh Shah, of Pune, India, was fined £4,000 for a breach of the Data Protection Act, and ordered to pay costs of £2,703 and a £400 victim surcharge. Shah – who has a UK consumer credit licence and is registered as a data controller in the UK – was fined for not notifying the ICO that he sold data of individuals to other parties, not for sending spam.

El Reg notes that he has not been charged for any breach of Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations, which govern the sending of spam text messages.

However Shah did do business with UK-based claims firms, meaning he was required to register with the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO).

The Daily Mail quoted District Judge Mark Jabbitt as saying: "I’m dealing with a failure to keep his entry up to date. I’m not dealing with his company’s sending millions of unsolicited text messages to people in this country."

The barrage of SMS spam sent to UK phones is mostly related to PPI (Payment Protection Insurance) claims confusion.

No intermediary is needed to submit claims against banks for miss-sold insurance policies (as explained by Which? here), but various claims outfits are seeking to exploit confusion about this point in order to sell their services.

The Mail criticised the fines imposed on Shah as little more than a slap on the wrist. Data privacy watchdogs at the ICO attempted to put a more positive spin on the outcome of the case.

Andy Curry, Enforcement Group Manager, said: "This is a sizeable fine, and a reminder to marketing companies to keep their registration up to date. Contrary to his boasts to the media that he could escape prosecution, the ruling established that Mr Shah is operating in the UK and subject to the law. It is therefore an important step to considering further action in relation to potential breaches of Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations by Shah’s company.”

Bulk text messaging operations punting PPI claims have incurred fines – including one of £440,000 against two UK-based miscreants back in 2012.

Further commentary on the Shah case, and on what recipients of spammed PPI claims offers ought to do, can be found in a post by John Hawes on Sophos's Naked Security blog here. ®

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