Britain’s data watchdog has fined a financial adviser £80,000 who sent hundreds of thousands of unsolicited text messages during lockdown.
H&L Business Consulting, based in Penrith, Cumbria, was discovered by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to have sent 378,553 text messages between January and June 2020, resulting in over 300 complaints. [PDF].
The spam promoted the UK government’s designed debt management scheme as the novel coronavirus outbreak turned into a pandemic. This is despite the fact that H&L Business Consulting has not been authorized by the Financial Conduct Authority to sell regulated financial products or services.
“Get FREE debt during lockdown! Cancel 95% of ALL DEBTS with ALL fees and charges FROZEN. Government backed. Click http://outofdebtuk.co.uk. Stop 2optout,” was sample text sent.
Andy Curry, head of investigations at the ICO, said H&L Business Consulting “has sought to capitalize on the COVID-19 pandemic by sending thousands of spam text messages that directly reference the lockdown, targeting people who might feel vulnerable due to the health crisis.
“The director of the company has failed to cooperate with our investigations by concealing his identity by using false company information on his websites; changing the wording of text messages; and changing the registered address of his company after learning of our investigation.”
According to House of Companiesthe UK corporate repository, the sole director of H&L Business Consulting is Julius Gray.
H&L Business Consulting has indeed changed its office location listed on Companies House in August 2020 from Greater London to Penrith. Then, in October of that year, he returned to the London address.
The company (registration number 12061236) was incorporated in June 2019 and was due to file its first profit and loss accounts for the year ended June 30, 2020 by June 2021. They have not yet been released.
The ICO found that by sending unsolicited marketing texts and concealing its identity, H&L Business Consulting violated Articles 22 and 23 of the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations, respectively.
The company was fined and put on notice. ®