ICO – “we’re very sorry we fined you”

***Update, 3 September. ICO have now published their apology – although scant on details it does state that “there were significantly fewer complaints than previously evidenced” and that this information led to the withdrawal of the MPN.***

It’s not unusual for the recipient of a monetary penalty notice (MPN) to appeal to the Information Tribunal. It’s not entirely unusual for such appeals to be settled by consent of the parties (normally when one of them concedes that its case is not tenable).

It’s much rarer, however, for a consent order to have attached to it a requirement that the Information Commissioner’s Office should apologise for serving the MPN in the first place. But that’s exactly what has recently happened. A consent order dated 25 September 2018 states that, by consent, the appeal by STS Commercial Limited is allowed, and that

The Commissioner will publish [for four weeks] on the Information Commissioner’s Office website in the section “News, blogs and speeches”, the following statement:

On 6 July 2018 the ICO announced that the Information Commissioner had imposed a fine of £60,000 on STS Commercial Ltd for allowing its lines to be used to send spam texts. STS Commercial Ltd appealed that penalty and upon considering the grounds of appeal, the ICO accepts that the appeal should be allowed and no monetary penalty should be imposed. The ICO apologises to STS Commercial Ltd.

Already, most of the traces of the MPN have been removed from the ICO’s website (and Google returns broken links), although the apology itself does not appear to have yet been uploaded.

Section 55B(5) of the Data Protection 1998 provides for the right of appeal, in respect of MPNs served by the ICO under section 55A for contraventions of the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003. And paragraph 37 of the Tribunal Procedure (First-tier Tribunal) (General Regulatory Chamber) Rules 2009 provides that the Tribunal may

make a consent order disposing of the proceedings and making such other appropriate provision as the parties have agreed

One wonders what on earth occurred that has led not just to the appeal being disposed of, but such contrition from the ICO!

The views in this post (and indeed all posts on this blog) are my personal ones, and do not represent the views of any organisation I am involved with.


Filed under Information Commissioner, Information Tribunal, monetary penalty notice, PECR

4 responses to “ICO – “we’re very sorry we fined you”

  1. Indicative of poor administrative controls within ICO perhaps?
    There is still quite a bit around about the MPN via Google cache http://bit.ly/2QmmREm and generally in media stories http://bit.ly/2NilBAi http://bit.ly/2ItTai0 http://bit.ly/2xS7ZHf and what appears to be a odd company called Better Regulation Limited showing what pupports to be start of the MPN but is not http://bit.ly/2Ou5BA2

  2. Steve Sullivan

    Thanks for highlighting this, John.
    Do you know if there is any way (FOI?) by which we could find out more about this case and the basis for the ICO’s dramatic change of mind. Based on my reading of the original Enforcement Notice (as memory serves), even if there were fewer complaints than originally believed there would still have been a case to answer.
    At the time I included the STS case in a monthly round-up I write for the Direct Marketing Association’s Contact Centre Council (a non-expert writes for a non-expert audience!) and my summary was quite damning:
    wrongly so or not, do you think?

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