Britain’s data watchdog has issued an £80,000 penalty to a financial advisor that dispatched hundreds of thousands of unsolicited text messages during lockdown.
H&L Business Consulting, based in Penrith, Cumbria, was found by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to have sent 378,553 texts between January and June 2020, resulting in more than 300 complaints [PDF].
The spam promoted the debt management scheme devised by UK government as the outbreak of the novel coronavirus morphed into a pandemic. This is despite the fact that H&L Business Consulting was unauthorized by the Financial Conduct Authority to sell regulated financial products or services.
“Get Debt FREE during the Lockdown! Write off 95% of ALL DEBTS with ALL charges and fees FROZEN. Government backed. Click http://outofdebtuk.co.uk. Stop 2optout,” was one example of a text sent.
Andy Curry, head of investigations at the ICO, said H&L Business Consulting “sought to capitalize on the COVID-19 pandemic by sending thousands of unwanted text messages directly referencing lockdown, targeting people that may be feeling vulnerable due to the health crisis.
“The company director failed to cooperate with our investigations through concealing his identity by using false company details on his websites; changing the wording on the text messages; and changing his company’s registered address after becoming aware of our investigation.”
According to Companies House, the UK company repository, H&L Business Consulting’s sole director is Julius Gray.
H&L Business Consulting did indeed change its listed office location on Companies House in August 2020 from Greater London to Penrith. Then in October that year it reverted back to the address in London.
The business (registration number 12061236) was incorporated in June 2019, and was due to file its first profit and loss accounts for the year ended 30 June 2020 by June 2021. They have yet to be posted.
The ICO found that in sending unsolicited marketing texts and concealing its identity, H&L Business Consulting contravened section 22 and 23 respectively of the Privacy and Electronics Communications Regulations.
The business was fined and issued with an enforcement notice. ®