A payday loans company has been fined £175,000 after sending more than a million unlawful spam texts.
First Financial was hit with the penalty by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) following an investigation by the watchdog.
The fine comes after 4,031 complaints were made against messages sent from numbers that the ICO found to belong to First Financial. The messages included some claiming to be from the recipient’s friends, reading: “Hi Mate hows u? I’m still out in town, just got £850 in my account from these guys www.firstpaydayloanuk.co.uk.” The spam texts were sent using unregistered SIM cards.
However the content was similar on each occasion and referred recipients to a website belonging to firstpaydayloanuk.co.uk, which is a trading name used by First Financial.
The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR), which govern electronic marketing, require organisations to have an individual’s consent before sending marketing messages by text.
Simon Entwisle, director of operations at the ICO, said: “People are fed up with this menace and they are not willing to be bombarded with nuisance calls and text messages at all times of the day trying to get them to sign up to high-interest loans. We are also currently speaking with the Government to get the legal bar lowered, allowing us to take action at a much earlier stage.”
Anyone who receives an unsolicited text message should avoid replying and report the message using the survey available on the ICO website.
The Leeds region is already doing some trailblazing work to fight the scourge of payday lenders, and has recently launched a three-year drive to rid the city of them.
The city council recently teamed up with five other Yorkshire authorities to block access to payday lender websites from its computers. Cash-strapped Leeds families are also being reminded that alternative lenders are available, offering a more affordable, ethical option. The council has joined forces with the Leeds City Credit Union for a seasonal awareness drive as part of the wider ‘Take a Stand’ campaign against high-cost lenders.
Research has shown that up to 60,000 people in Leeds have used or consulted payday lenders, with around 22,500 believed to have taken out the loans to pay their bills.
Councillor Keith Wakefield, leader of Leeds council, said: “Hopefully this campaign will start a shift in public thinking, so that credit unions become the go-to place for accessible loans rather than high-cost lenders.”