Tribunal overturns £300,000 fine imposed by ICO

The ICO’s £300,000 fine on Mr Christopher Niebel, trading as Tetrus Telecoms, for sending unwanted text messages on an industrial scale has been overruled by the First Tier Tribunal. For the ICO to be able to issue a monetary penalty, the contravention must be serious and also likely to cause substantial damage or substantial distress. The Tribunal considers that this contravention was unlikely to cause substantial damage or distress; the effect was likely to be widespread irritation but not widespread distress – the texts were about compensation schemes. The Tribunal says that the contravention was of a kind to lead to people incurring small charges for replying “stop”.

Mr Niebel did not dispute having sent the messages. In the Tribunal’s view, the contravention was confined to those cases in which the recipients complained to the ICO. ‘We are therefore concerned with a contravention in which Mr Niebel sent out 286 unwanted text messages’.