£60,000 fine for lo­cal busi­ness is dropped and apol­ogy is­sued

Glamorgan Gazette - - Your Views - KATIE SANDS, STRAND NEWS SER­VICE katie.sands@waleson­line.co.uk

A BRID­GEND tech com­pany fined £60,000 over spam texts has had their fine over­turned and has re­ceived an of­fi­cial apol­ogy.

Soft­ware devel­oper, STS Com­mer­cial Ltd, was ac­cused of al­low­ing its lines to be used to send texts pro­mot­ing pay­day loans to more than 270,000 peo­ple in a three-month pe­riod be­tween No­vem­ber 2016 and Jan­uary 2017.

In July, the In­for­ma­tion Com­mis­sioner’s Of­fice (ICO) hit the com­pany with a £60,000 fi­nan­cial penalty. The Mon­e­tary Penalty No­tice (MPN) was is­sued on the ba­sis of ev­i­dence re­ceived by the ICO.

But STS Com­mer­cial ap­pealed the no­tice to the First-tier Tri­bunal (In­for­ma­tion Rights) – and the fine has been dropped.

A state­ment on the ICO web­site said: “Af­ter con­sid­er­ing the grounds of ap­peal, the ICO car­ried out a fur­ther re­view with the tel- ecoms provider re­spon­si­ble for the lines. Fur­ther in­for­ma­tion was un­cov­ered through the ap­peal process which showed there were sig­nif­i­cantly fewer com­plaints than pre­vi­ously ev­i­denced. As a re­sult of this re­vised in­for­ma­tion, the ICO has with­drawn the fine.”

In a state­ment that will be pub­lished on the ICO web­site for at least a month, the body ac­cepted that the com­pany’s ap­peal should be al­lowed.

The ICO also con­ceded that “no mon­e­tary penalty should be im­posed” and pub­licly apol­o­gised to STS Com­mer­cial.

An ICO spokesper­son said: “On 6 July, 2018, the ICO an­nounced it had im­posed a fine of £60,000 on STS Com­mer­cial Ltd for al­low­ing its lines to be used to send spam texts.

“STS Com­mer­cial Ltd ap­pealed that penalty and upon con­sid­er­ing the grounds of ap­peal, the ICO ac­cepts that the ap­peal should be al­lowed and no mon­e­tary penalty should be im­posed. The ICO apol­o­gises to STS Com­mer­cial Ltd.”

William Sin­clair, di­rec­tor STS Com­mer­cial Ltd, said: “On the 30th of July STS Com­mer­cial sub­mit­ted an ap­peal to the First Tier Trib­nunal, ask­ing for the In­for­ma­tion Com­mis­sioner’s (IC) de­ci­sion to im­pose a Mon­e­tary Penalty on our Com­pany of £60,000 be over­turned.

“We are pleased to an­nounce that at the ap­peal, when pre­sented with our grounds, the IC has agreed to dis­pose of the Mon­e­tary Penalty, and to apol­o­gise to us of­fi­cially on their web­site for their con­duct in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“We’ve al­ways main­tained that we did not do any­thing wrong. The con­duct of the IC’s deal­ings fell short of what would be ex­pected from an ICO in­ves­ti­ga­tion. The de­ci­sion by the IC to im­pose the Mon­e­tary Penalty was un­rea­son­able in the cir­cum­stances and the con­duct of her in­quiries and the cav­a­lier ap­proach caused dam­age to our rep­u­ta­tion, and could have re­sulted in the loss of up to 20 jobs to the Welsh econ­omy.

“It’s a crazy world we live in, where the reg­u­la­tor can is­sue fines with­out ev­i­dence, in­stead of first hav­ing a sim­ple con­ver­sa­tion to re­solve any is­sues.

“Spend­ing money on le­gal costs de­fend­ing your­self against an un­just ac­tion makes for a hol­low vic­tory, but in prin­ci­ple we have stood up for all busi­nesses re­gard­ing their in­for­ma­tion rights.”

The firm was ac­cused of send­ing thou­sands of text mes­sages about pay day loans

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