Payday lender First Financial fined £175,000 for spam texting


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The Independent Online

A payday loan firm that persistently bombarded people with spam texts encouraging them to borrow money to have a night out has been fined £175,000.

The Information Commissioner’s Office slapped the penalty on First Financial after it received 4,031 complaints about irresponsible messages such as “Hi Mate hows u? I’m still out in town, just got £850 from these guys”.

Simon Entwisle of 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.”

Under the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations organisations must have an individual's consent before sending marketing messages by text.

The penalty comes after the firm’s former director Hamed Shabani was prosecuted and fined £1,180.66 at City of London Magistrates' Court in October for Data Protection Act failings, despite claiming he had no affiliation with the company.

“The fact that this individual tried to distance himself from the unlawful activities of his company shows the kind of individuals we’re dealing with here,” said Mr Entwisle.

Research by debt charity StepChange found that 26.3m British adults had been offered payday loans via unsolicited calls and text messages. Frighteningly 1.2m adults said they had been tempted to take out a loan as a result.

“Tackling the epidemic of nuisance calls requires a broad range of measures including stronger powers for regulators, greater co-operation between regulators and measures that give consumers control back over their personal data,” said Peter Tutton of StepChange.

Richard Lloyd of Which? added: "Consumers need regulators to get tough to stop companies persistently bombarding us with unwanted calls and texts. The Government must make it easier for regulators to take enforcement action."