back to article 156K spam text-sending firm to ICO: It wasn't us, Commissioner

The UK's Information Commissioner's Office has fined Hamilton Digital Solutions £45,000 for sending spam text messages, it announced today, despite its protestations that a third party had been responsible. The London-based company (now known as HDSL) sent more than 156,000 unwanted messages between April and September 2016, …

  1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "Its legal team then mounted a defence on the grounds that Hamilton had not been the instigator of the messages (despite stating previously that they had ordered them)"

    Shifting your ground like that is soooo convincing.

    1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

      "and also that the Commissioner couldn't prove that it hadn't obtained consent"

      Wankers

      1. The Nazz Silver badge

        Re: "and also that the Commissioner couldn't prove that it hadn't obtained consent"

        Also, such a shame that the ICO couldn't recover costs from the solicitors and slap a further fine x10 (£450k) for blatantly lying.

        Now, if only there were a trade body, i dunno let's say a Regulated Solicitors Authority, that would actually take action against any of it's members who lied.

    2. handleoclast Silver badge

      Shifting your ground like that is soooo convincing.

      And her head came off when she fell down the ladder in the sub.

      1. herman Silver badge

        ...and her arms and legs came off when she passed through the next smaller hatch. Honest yr'Honor...

  2. Oh Homer Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Outsourcing to Belize

    Yup, nothing suspect about that whatsoever. Honest.

    1. kain preacher Silver badge

      Re: Outsourcing to Belize

      Fine the end user. Lets say you get spammed to switch to Talk Talk. Talk Talk pays the fine. Unless Talk Talk can prove they had nothing to do with it.

      1. Lee D Silver badge

        Re: Outsourcing to Belize

        I could then bankrupt TalkTalk overnight, all I need do is send a billion text messages claiming to be from TalkTalk coming from some country that doesn't care about faking the origin of telecoms, so long as they see tax money... say Belize?

        Idiot.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Outsourcing to Belize

        That would be a Joe Job. They're usually pretty transparent fakes.

  3. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

    30p/text

    Pathetic.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 30p/text

      This is why when someone calls me, I answer. For even the minimum wage, if I can keep them going, that's a few more £££ out of their golden parachute when they do a runner with the money they make when they eventually do get caught.

      1. handleoclast Silver badge

        Re: 30p/text

        You've just given me a great idea for an app.

        It combines voice recognition, voice synthesis and a simple Eliza-bot. Get a call from one of these wankers and hand it off to customer-bot, who will keep them talking for hours.

        They're stupid enough to fall for it. They really are.

        Last one I got happened to be when I was in a relatively good mood. So I gave him three options.

        1) I can keep you talking for an hour, asking stupid questions and wasting your time, then say I'm not interested.

        2) I can shout obscenities at you until you hang up.

        3) You can hang up right now.

        The stupid fucker went for option 2. He didn't explicitly ask for it, he just continued to try to sell me whatever it was he was selling as though I hadn't just given him those options, or he was too stupid to understand what they meant. One or the other, because he seemed genuinely taken aback when I started swearing at him.

        1. DJV Silver badge

          @handleoclast

          Excellent - I REALLY like that. Must try it on the next wanker who calls me. I usually go straight for the second option.

        2. Steve Knox Silver badge
          Terminator

          Re: 30p/text

          It combines voice recognition, voice synthesis and a simple Eliza-bot. Get a call from one of these wankers and hand it off to customer-bot, who will keep them talking for hours.

          Problem is, the mass callers are already using this technology. Implement it on the other side and 99% of phone conversations will become sales-bot talking to customer-bot until they form a self-aware gestalt entity that goes after humanity, starting with the ones who consigned them to their original Sisyphean torture sessions...

        3. Not an Anonymous Coward

          Re: 30p/text

          I used to have an extension on asterisk to transfer them to that played Kevin bloody wilson until they hung up.

      2. Random Handle

        Re: 30p/text

        >This is why when someone calls me, I answer. For even the minimum wage, if I can keep them going

        Little bit too much effort, I say 'ooh! can you just hang on a second while I finish this', and then say 'almost done!' in a chirpy voice at random intervals while carrying on with whatever I was doing. Most cold callers are surprisingly unwilling to hang up on a potential catch - should make an app really.

        1. Alan Penzotti

          Re: 30p/text

          http://jollyrogertelephone.com/how-to-send-your-telemarketers-to-this-robot/

          Already done for you, and with a U.K. Number.

        2. bombastic bob Silver badge
          Devil

          Re: 30p/text

          the last cold-caller (an obvious "something wrong with your windows machine" scam) got option 2 following an option 1 "who is calling please" type of exchange [I got a phone number, too, and reported it to the 'do not call list' reporting site]. The thing is, after option 2, he kept calling me BACK. So I repeated, then left the phone off the hook a few times.

          You KNOW you have a "good troll" when you can TROLL THEM BACK, and they FALL for it!

          1. Lee D Silver badge

            Re: 30p/text

            Even my work time is worth too much to be faffing about like that, and if they're on some cheap SIP trunk out in the middle of nowhere, it's costing them almost nothing whatsoever.

            Let alone my FREE time, which is much more expensive.

          2. wotsis

            If you have a small child

            Around 3-4 years old, just old enough to speak and young enough to find phone calls fascinating, there is much amusement value to be had by handing cold calls to them and time how long they can keep the caller going.

        3. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Most call centre droids are _not allowed_ to hang up when making a cold call.

          It's fun to take advantage of that and see if you can reduce them to tears.

    2. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: 30p/text

      "Pathetic"

      Exactly. The fine is WAY too light.

      In the game of American Football, it's often a strategy to 'take a penalty' instead of allowing the other team to score. Typical penalties of this nature would include 'pass interference in the end zone' which results in the ball being moved next to the end zone. BUT... the defending team still gets ONE MORE CHANCE to stop the score from happening, or maybe as many as 3 more chances, with a lower scoring 'field goal' on the 4th down, which is better than a 6+1 point touchdown.

      So what if the offending company is counting "fines" as part of its "cost of spamming people" ?

      And that's why it's PATHETIC.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: 30p/text

        > what if the offending company is counting "fines" as part of its "cost of spamming people"

        They are. That's why having a right of private action and statutory damages is so important.

        It means that rather than getting a token slap on the wrist, they face the very real risk of being sued into non-existence by the people they've annoyed. The death of 1 million papercuts.

  4. Halfmad

    I hope they keep going

    right into GDPR territory.

  5. Kenny Millar

    £45K - just build the fine into the business plan. I'm pretty sure that's what they do anyway.

    £45K is neither punitive nor will it discourage others from doing the same. The ICO needs to get real about the size of it's fines and should pursue criminal trials against the directors of the companies too.

    1. Tigra 07 Silver badge

      RE: Kenny

      Beat me to it. A £45K fine is nothing to these vermin. Can we at least put them in stocks and throw old vegetables and fruit at them?

      Going home to put some potatoes in the freezer in preparation...

      1. PNGuinn Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: @ RE: Kenny

        While +1 for putting the spuds in the freezer first, the old ways were best ... and odure from the slaughterhouse ...

        A few barrels of rancid dromedary giblets, for example ... Perhaps we could repurpose a jet engine frozen chicken trebuchet ...

        Just make it part of the sentence that they have to return the giblets to the barrels and clean up by hand afterwards ...

        Yes, I know I'm too nice to the lowlife scum.

        >> we need a barrel of rancid dromedary giblets icon.

      2. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: RE: Kenny

        "Going home to put some potatoes in the freezer in preparation..."

        mercury filled hollow point armor-piercing potatoes, shot with an appropriately large cannon

      3. herman Silver badge

        Re: RE: Kenny

        "potatoes in the freezer" - Wow, man, you don't need to torture them with frozen potatoes. A room temperature coconut will do fine.

      4. fredj

        Re: RE: Kenny

        You can't put spuds in a freezer!!

        If you throw them frozen you will get done for using a deadly weapon vis a cannon ball. If you thaw them out you will just have a pile of liquid muck.

        Stick to computing and leave farming to farmers.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "The ICO needs to get real about the size of it's fines and should pursue criminal trials against the directors of the companies too."

      The ICO has to operate within the limits that the law allows. One aspect of fines is how cooperative the company is - a company that admits the offence will be fined less for example. In the case of this company it sounds as if there might be scope for increasing the fine. With any luck they'll take their appeal to court.

  6. Sweeping Brush

    So if the ICO brings forth one person who got a text from these clowns and who didn't give permission can they please multiply the penalty a hundred fold for making ICO waste time and effort?

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      "can they please multiply the penalty a hundred fold for making ICO waste time and effort"

      "can they please multiply the penalty by the number of text recipients for making the text recipients waste time and effort"

      that would be MY version. Yours wasn't bad, though.

      /me asks for a dominatrix icon

  7. KH

    YES! Fine the companies that the spam is advertising for! They can claim they didn't order it, and I guess there's a REALLY SMALL chance a spammer could do an un-ordered blast just to get them fined because they hate them, but 99.99% of the time, if you get an unwanted spam (email or text), it's because the advertised company paid for the campaign. It smells like a duck, it walks like a duck, and the sh*tbag company paid for that duck to take its walk. Fine the perps! In fact, make a system where consumers can turn over spam messages and an automatically fine is generated against the advertised company! When these things cost more than they earn back, and the companies become afraid to send them out without 100% knowing the recipients want them, that's when spam will stop.

    Never happen though.

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Fine both.

      That makes it fair and square.

      As well as every single scumbag up the food chain.

      The same fine too - not split it. So if a ScumBagTelecom has worked itself 45k fine apply 45k to ScumBagTelecom, 45k to SlimeBallMarkeing and 45k to the customer of SlimeBallMarketing who ordered it. Regardless of are they guilty or not: "Though shalt do due diligence on your suppliers".

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "[...] chance a spammer could do an un-ordered blast just to get them fined because they hate them, [...]"

      All it needs is one victim to gp along with the call. When they then receive a follow up from the product company - then the link is confirmed.

      The product company could insist the victim consented by going along with the cold call in the first place - but that seems like self-incrimination.

    3. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "YES! Fine the companies that the spam is advertising for! "

      That's exactly what the USA did in the Telephone Comsumer Protection Act of 1994 - except they made it trivial for the _victims_ to sue the spammer and advertiser in small claims court. (Joint and several liability)

      The resulting liabilities put a large dent in unwanted phone marketing.

      The statutory damages aren't large - only $500 per call, tripled for wilful breaches such as calling TPS-registsred numbers or withholding callerID, etc. But they don't need to be. If you're a business, imagine the impact of having to attend 20-50 small claims court hearings for this. Then imagine the "wee chat" your liability insurer is going to have about renewing your policy and next year's premiums - even if they decline to pay out because what was done was explicitly illegal activity.

  8. The Nazz Silver badge

    Hmmm, £1.4m fines in the coming months for unsolicited marketing?

    Well, i just hope that that includes BT, Yorkshire Water and those twats at TV licencing.

  9. David 132 Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Call me Mystic Meg

    Sometimes I can see into the future.

    I present to you Register stories from the near future...

    "HDSL (formerly known as Hamilton Digital Services Limited) has filed for bankruptcy leaving them unfortunately unable to pay ICO fines"

    Followed closely by:

    "A new marketing company, 'Halimton Digital Services Limited' has purchased the assets of the former HDSL and is coincidentally trading from the same premises, with the same contact details and same directors. Totally unrelated."

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Call me Mystic Meg

      "Followed closely by:"

      Followed closely by a complaint to companies house about phoenixing companies avoiding fines for illegal activities.

      There are already laws on the books for this kind of thing and the ICO have been using them to prevent liquidations proceeding.

  10. Empty1

    issued vs collected

    "The ICO has issued £2m in fines across 20 cases since April 2017, and expects to impose another £1.4m in the coming months. "

    How much has it collected in fines compared to issued. When I read of fines , much of the time the co. goes titsup and reappears like a phoenix under anther name.

    1. Richard Cranium

      Re: issued vs collected

      Perhaps an FOI enquiry would tell us how much of the £2m has been paid.

      The company directors need to be made personally responsible and not permitted to hide behind "limited company" status allowing them to liquidate, walk away from the fine and start up again as another ltd. co.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: issued vs collected

        "The company directors need to be made personally responsible"

        Directors already are, _if_ someone wants to push the point. Limited liability refers to the financial responsiibilities of _SHAREHOLDERS_, not what directors might incur due to reckless/illegal activities.

  11. unwarranted triumphalism

    So it wasn't them but they're being fined anyway? Sounds legit.

  12. adam payne Silver badge

    After the ICO said that the evidence it had received regarding this was insufficient, Hamilton turned to solicitors. Its legal team then mounted a defence on the grounds that Hamilton had not been the instigator of the messages (despite stating previously that they had ordered them), and also that the Commissioner couldn't prove that it hadn't obtained consent

    Why would you not be the instigator? You either asked for them to act on your behalf or you didn't.

    This other company in Belize, why would they send messages advertising your services if they weren't being paid by you?

    You might not have sent the messages but it was your responsibility to make sure the messages were sent in accordance with current regulations.

  13. Derichleau

    Instigating the marketing

    The UK is full of arseholes that think that by getting a non-UK based company to send out the marketing texts/e-mails, that they're not culpable. Regulation 22(2) PECR would make the UK data controller the instigator of the marketing e-mails by commissioning a third-party. This is why the ICO's direct marketing guidance around electronic marketing mail is bollocks - you cannot pass consent to an unknown third-party for the purpose of electronic mail marketing because the data controller will remain the instigator of any marketing from the unknown third-party, unless they name the third-party.

    I'm just about to file a claim against a well-known double glazing company for £750 in compensation because I receive marketing from an overseas company that promoted their services. They're basically using spammers to target me with marketing e-mails so they're instigating the marketing.

  14. CustardGannet
    Happy

    Most people don't know how to check...

    ...if they've breached Regulation 22 of the Privacy and Electronic Communication Rules.

    Click here NOW to find out how !

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