Security

Oh dear, Lads: Spam marketing bosses banned from forming UK firms for clobbering folk with 500k calls and texts

Lad Media, The Lead Expert don't look so 'expert' now

By Rebecca Hill

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The bosses of lead-generation firms Lad Media and The Lead Experts have been slapped with four and six-year bans on forming companies respectively after they fell foul of direct marketing laws.

Aaron Frederick Stalberg, the 27-year-old former director of The Lead Experts, was banned after his business was found to have made more than 115,000 automated marketing calls to people who hadn't consented to receive them.

The UK's data protection watchdog issued the biz – which initially denied using automated dialling – a £70,000 fine for the nuisance calls in October 2017.

However, the firm didn't pay up or appeal the fine so the Information Commissioner's Office handed the case to the Insolvency Service, which last month slapped a six-year ban on Stalberg.

"Despite the company protesting they had made only a small number of calls, investigations by the ICO confirmed that they had made more than 100,000 unsolicited calls, amounting to a serious breach of the regulations and people's privacy," said Insolvency Service chief investigator David Brooks.

It's a similar story for the 51-year-old Lad Media boss, Keith Hancock, who came under fire from the ICO after more than 100 people complained about unsolicited texts from his firm.

Lad Media even claimed they were an "ICO regulated partner" and authorised to provide lead generation and data to the financial services sector.

An ICO probe found Lad Media had sent more than 393,000 text messages to the public, including people who had specifically asked not to be sent SMS marketing bumf.

The firm was fined £20,000, but it failed to pay and in April 2018 a winding-up order was made and Lad Media shut down. At this point, the Insolvency Service stepped in, concluding that Hancock played a central role in the breach of marketing regulations, and handed him a four-year ban.

"Keith Hancock clearly failed to ensure Lad Media carried out sufficient checks on who was being sent direct marketing, even if it was done by a third party," said Brooks.

"There is clear guidance on the internet about what communications you can send to people when it comes to marketing so there is no excuse about not knowing what your responsibilities are."

The men have been banned from directly or indirectly becoming involved, without the permission of the court, in the promotion, formation or management of a company, for the length of their respective bans.

As of 17 December 2018, the ICO has even greater powers over dodgy dialling directors whose companies breach the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR), including the ability to hand out personal fines of up to £500,000.

The move was the result of years of lobbying from the ICO, and followed hot on the heels of a report from El Reg that found the ICO had recouped just £2.2m of the £8.5m fines handed out under PECR between 2010 and April 2018. ®

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