Have you ever answered a call or read a text message from an unknown number, just to realise it is an advert for something you never wanted, sent by a company about whom you have never heard? The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) reported on 1 October 2012 that the number of complaints relating to spam calling and texting has been on the rise over the last few months. Simon Entwisle, Director of Operations at the ICO, has said that during the last 6 months the ICO has received reports of almost 30,000 calls and texts received by the public from unknown senders.

The law states that individuals should not be contacted through automated marketing calls or text messages unless they have given their explicit permission. Marketing companies are forbidden from phoning individuals registered with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) - or a similar service - and, unless explicit consent is given, these individuals can avoid phone calls from marketing companies. However, the service does not protect against communication relating to market research, overseas nuisance calls, automated calls or recorded messages. In reality, however, it can be difficult to freeze the cold calls.

The ICO issued the first monetary penalty notices, on 1 October 2012, to the top two most prolific offenders on the list of spam texters – a list compiled by the ICO, with help from the public. Both individuals have allegedly been responsible for sending millions of spam text messages. The fines issued are estimated to be in the region of £250,000 – although the final figure could be anything up to £500,000,.

This indicates that ICO will not tolerate blatant breaches of the law. The two individuals, issued with penalty notices, have been given 28 days to prove consent by all the recipients of the texts. If they fail to demonstrate the permission to send the text messages and make the automated calls, the fines will become due. Further details will be released next month, and we will keep our readers informed – unless you have opted not to receive our communications, of course!