Spam text war is tits up, who cares?

Charlie-views-sizeAnother week, another successful High Court appeal against an Information Commissioner’s Office fine. And, following swiftly after Scottish Borders Council managed to get its £250,000 fine overturned, the reversal of the decision against Tetrus Telecom boss Christopher Niebel will be a bitter pill to swallow…not only for Christopher Graham but also the direct marketing industry.
After all, by slapping Tetrus with a £440,000 monetary penalty the ICO had thought it had made a giant leap forward in the battle against text spam. Sadly with Scottish Borders managing to persuade the appeals panel that there was little or no harm done, the case set a worrying legal precedent.
Suddenly the snarling watchdog is looking like a passive poodle and it would appear rogue firms will be now be able to carry on with impunity.
But with MPs on the All-Party Parliamentary Committee for Culture, Media & Sport due to publish their report into nuisance calls and texts at the end of October, there is a glimmer of hope; the bad news is that it could be at least a year before any changes are implemented.
Then there is a Private Members Bill being brought by Scottish MP Mike Crockart, who sits on the All-Party Group. The Bill – due to have its second reading on November 1 – will try to reduce the level of harm which regulators need to prove from “distress” to “annoyance, inconvenience or anxiety”.
As Crockart says: “People are sick and tired of being pestered by text and with cold calls. The Government needs to take action on this now and back my Bill – it’s the quickest route to bringing the industry under control.”
It is a stance the ICO has already supported. But isn’t it all a bit sad that the future of legitimate marketers is hanging by the thread of a Private Members Bill, which historically have about as much chance of success as the England football team in the World Cup finals?
Some might not give a toss, dismissing the rogue firms as nothing to do with this industry. Yet surely the combined might of the Ministry of Justice, Ofcom and the ICO – not to mention the numerous consumer groups who have been protesting about this for years – could and should be doing more?

Charlie McKelvey is publishing editor of DecisionMarketing

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