Record fines for landline 'phone spam'

'You may already have won a holiday.' Sound familiar?

'You may already have won a holiday.' Sound familiar?

Premium rate phone regulator ICSTIS has handed out record fines, totalling £1.3m, to companies sending automated marketing messages to consumers down their phone lines.

ICSTIS has noted a dramatic increase in the use of automated caller equipment (ACE) often used to spam users with trumped up competition prizes or special offers and has moved to quash 16 organisations abusing the technology.

Typically such services inform consumers of a competition win, such as a cash prize, car or holiday and encourage them to call back on a given number. In the cases highlighted by ICSTIS such calls were charged at £1.50 per minute and could last for some time.

ICSTIS director George Kidd said such "intrusive, misleading and almost certainly illegal" services are "simply unacceptable".

He urged "the proper authorities" - the Information Commissioner's Office, the Office of Fair Trading and Ofcom - to get involved in bringing action against any companies operating illegally in the premium rate phone industry.

Many of the sixteen services named in the most recent ICSTIS adjudications were hit with £100,000 fines as well as being closed down. Many were UK based, such as Voice Complete (Bath), Voice Priority (Cardiff), Sky Promotions (Cheltenham), Back to Back (Chippenham) and Voice International (Leeds).

However, many others were based outside the UK in locations such as Hong Kong, Mauritius, New York and Singapore.

Allied Telecommunications Ltd, which has registered offices in Finchley, North London, has also been reported to Ofcom for its involvement with all 16 services.