Big fine handed down for mobile spamming

Sending out unsolicited text messages that misled mobile users to believe they had won a £500 prize proves to be rather expensive

A company that sent large numbers of unsolicited text messages to mobile phone users telling them they had won a mystery prize worth £500 has been fined £50,000 by the premium rate services regulator.

ICSTIS, the Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of Telephone Information Services, announced on Thursday that it was fining Moby Monkey, and barring it from continuing the promotion.

Over 200 people complained to ICSTIS after receiving the text message, which urged them to call a £1.50-per-minute premium rate telephone number. Those who made the call discovered, after several minutes, that the mystery prizes were holiday discount vouchers that were subject to various terms and conditions.

In its ruling, ICSTIS slammed Moby Monkey's tactics, which it said seriously breached the code of practice governing premium rate services. ICSTIS was unimpressed that children received the text message, and that some mobile phone users reported receiving it repeatedly -- up to 40 times in one case.

"The use of text messaging to promote premium rate services has many obvious consumer benefits when carried out in a legitimate, responsible manner and in compliance with our Code of Practice. However, we will not hesitate to take swift action against the small minority of service providers who think that they can abuse public confidence and trust in text messaging in order to make money with no regard for consumers whatsoever," said ICSTIS director George Kidd in a statement announcing the £50,000 fine.

Moby Monkey is understood to be planning to appeal against ICSTIS's decision.

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