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Sparta Telecom

The phone number 00020 10447154 (0002010447154) is registered to Sparta Telecom?

If you've received a marketing phone call from Sparta Telecom then be warned that they are recording those phone calls and seem to be using that phone call information however they choose.

I received an international phone call from 0002010447154 on the 26 Aug 2014 claiming to be from Sparta TelecomSparta Telecom: opens in a new window. I've since learned that it was likely that Sparta were committing a number of contraventions of the DPA when they phoned my TPS registered phone number.

Firstly, Sparta were not a registered data controller when they phoned me and it's a criminal offence to process personal data without first notifying the Commissioner's Office, unless one is exempt from notification. Secondly, Sparta told me that they obtained my information from a TPS approved mailing list that they purchased from a third party company. When I checked with that company they denied ever providing my information to Sparta so it's looking likely that Sparta lied in their response to my Subject Access Request. I asked Sparta to provide me with a copy of the receipt of purchase for the mailing list from the third party company but they ignored my requests. This is probably because they don't have one because it's likely that they were randomly phoning TPS registered phone numbers to promote their services, which is also a criminal offence.

Below I've explained what happened in this case, as it happened. If you're registered with the TPS and you receive a phone call from Sparta Telecom you might want to submit a complaint to the ICO.

What happened in this case?

I followed up with an e-mail enquiry shortly after receiving the marketing phone call but Sparta haven't replied so I've submitted a Subject Access Request as Sparta are a UK data controller.

Sparta Telecom's Compliance Officer has confirmed that they own this number and made the call. However, he is of the opinion that he obtained the mailing list from a TPS approved source so I'm checking on that. It appears that the list provided to Sparta Telecom by a TPS approved source might not have been properly cleaned. In light of this, Sparta's Compliance Officer is taking the following action:

I have already ordered steps to be taken to still get data, but we are getting our own tps check list direct from tps  so we don’t have this problem arrive again, we can screen it ourselves after buying data from one of these companies.  As usual tho we have to wait for it to arrive to then place into our loaders, but that will probably take a week or two at least it will sort our problem that we are having not only with that company but with many others listed on the tps site.  It seems like these companies have their own agenda but when they advertise as doing tps extraction that’s what they should be doing not lying, and it’s the fact that tps themselves don’t do random checks bothers me.

That's great but these are changes for the future... what about right now! Are Sparta still using that list even thought it appears that it has not been properly cleaned? Wouldn't it be prudent for Sparta to stop processing the phone numbers in this list - right now, until they've clarified the matter with the supplier or obtained an alternative list?

Unfortunately the more I discuss this issue with Sparta's Compliance Officer the more concerned I become about their processing.

Sparta's Compliance Officer has now informed me that they're actually recording the telesales conversations without making us - the other party to the conversation, aware. This came to light because I told Sparta's Compliance Officer that the caller wasn't even aware of the TPS; when I told her that I was registered with the TPS she just paused to let me speak and returned to her script to try and sell me a service. She simply wasn't interested in what I had to say.

Sparta's Compliance Officer pulled the recording and rather than address my concerns, he jumped on the fact that I swore at the caller before I put down the phone. He then decided to attach the phone conversation file to an e-mail, added a transcript of just the swear words - which he put in large text, and then sent it to me - by normal e-mail, without any thought as to who in the household might read that e-mail. That's a serious error of judgement in my opinion. I don't understand what right he thinks he has to do something like that.

Let's just recap...

Sparta Telecom recorded the telephone call without my knowledge. And while I accept that it's likely that a company will record a phone conversation if I call them, it seems a tad strange to me that they would record a sales call. Are they using these recordings for training purposes? Apparently not because he's now told me that he's going to take legal action and/or report me to the police because I swore on the phone call. So is he using the phone call data for security reasons then? I don't know, and the reason why I don't know is because I can't find Sparta Telecom listed as a registered data controller. A failure to Notify and register as a data controller is a criminal offence unless one is exempt; but I not convinced that you can be exempt if you're recording phone conversations for anything other than training. Indeed, processing personal data for Crime prevention and prosecution of offenders (including some CCTV systems) is not an exempt processing purpose - unless you're a not-for-profit organisation. So why are Sparta Telecom recording these phone conversations?

There's more...

In Sparta's privacy policy it states:

(Sparta Telecom does record some calls for Quality and Training purposes, however, not all calls are recorded. Calls are only held for a short period of time. If you want a call recording it is essential that you provide the information requested above, otherwise we will not be able to proceed with your request).

So we've now clarified that they're using the recordings for training purposes. So why is Sparta's Compliance Officer processing the recording to have a go at me? Why is his sending me that recording? Why is he highlighting the swear words in bold in the e-mail? I fail to see how he can use the recording information for this purpose. Furthermore, I'm not convinced he clarified my identity before sending me the voice recording information. He's only got my name and e-mail address and there's nothing in the e-mail address that ties it to my name. See what I'm saying? For example, let's say that I was in the pub the other night and one of my mates told me about receiving the phone call from Sparta and he told me exactly when he made that phone call because he was going to submit a complaint to the ICO. What if I said that I would contact Sparta on his behalf because I like to investigate data protection issues. Sparta have sent me a copy of the voice recording file but at what point did they clarify that I was the data subject? At what point did they clarify that I am the person who the recording relates to? Are they taking me at my word? Is it Sparta's policy to take people at their word when supplying them with information - in response to a subject access request for example. I think they should have clarified that I am who I claim to be before sending me personal information.

And what's he on about taking me to court or going to the police? So what... he's going to go to the police with a recording of a phone conversation that he recorded for training purposes? And how are the police going to be able to submit that recording as evidence? And even if they were able to - she phoned me, disturbed me, and ignored me while she read her script! If I want to swear then I will do! There's no law against swearing down the phone. There's a law against phoning someone up and swearing at them with malice but that's something completely different. Furthermore, I thought the caller was committing a criminal offence by phoning me when I'm opted out with the TPS so excuse me if I'm not polite to criminals. And the fact that all she wanted to do was read her sales pitch to me was infuriating; she clearly couldn't give a toss about me or my rights.

What Sparta should be doing with my recording is using it to train their staff to understand what the TPS is, and... to ensure that they listen to what the customer is saying rather than continuing to spout their sales drivel. And to make it clear who the company is - Sparta Telecom Ltd.

Where does that leave us?

Bearing in mind that the phone call was from an international number and that Sparta is a UK company, I think they should be making it absolutely clear in the phone call that they are a UK data controller, that they're phoning using a TPS approved list, that they're recording the phone conversation for training purposes. It's the 4 Sept today so let's see how soon they implement these changes.

I'm still of the opinion that you should be submitting a complaint to the ICO if this company calls you

Why would anyone want to do business with this company?

I'm wondering whether Sparta is a deeply religious organisation or something? Sparta's Compliance Officer seems determined to get me to write a letter to their sales person to apologise for swearing at her on the phone. That ain't happening, but I have apologised. Like I say; I was pissed off at the caller because as far as I'm concerned they were committing a criminal offence by calling me in the first place, the caller didn't seem to understand what the TPS is and she simply didn't listen to what I was trying to tell her. But apparently my apology isn't enough and he's still not happy that I'm not willing to write a letter of apology. So I'm just wondering whether the company operates a very high moral standard and therefore don't want to do business with people that swear.

Bearing in mind that Sparta are clearly using the phone recordings for purposes other than training, I wonder what else they're using these recordings for. What if I were a Sparta Telecom customer and I were having an intimate conversation with my girlfriend over the phone? Are Sparta going to send me a recording of that phone conversation and tell me to apologise to them? What if I'm having an affair... are they going to send the recording to my wife because they think it's wrong to have an affair? Who do these people think they are? If they're using the phone conversations for training purposes then that's what they should be using them for! Sparta are simply not entitled to do whatever they like with our personal data.

It's seriously creepy is what it is.

Update: 06.09.2014

Sparta's Compliance Officer has contacted me to say:

I thought you would go against your word, and fail to publish our official statement I have given you an official statement I will not be giving any more correspondence to you not even "would clarify whether you have Notified the ICO and registered as a data controller".  As you are biased and will not publish official statements I deem these email exchanges closed.

I think this means that he's not going to clarify whether or not they are a registered data controller.

I dispute that I'm biased though; I've made it clear to him that I'm happy to publish his view in this article but I'm not going to publish the contents of the recording until I've checked with the appropriate authorities as to whether Sparta Telecom are committing an offence. The sort of thing that I would like to publish are... "We're going to stop using that mailing list to make phone calls until we've investigated the reason why your phone number wasn't cleaned." Or, "You're right Mindmydata, we do need to notify the ICO and we're doing that immediately." Instead he keeps referring to the recording and how he's going to tell the ICO, Ofcom and the police about me. As I've already told him - don't keep going on to me about it; if you think you have a case then do what you need to do. If not, then stop twatting around with my personal data.

What concerns me is that Sparta Telecom are likely to be COMMITTING A CRIMINAL OFFENCE if they need to Notify and fail to do so. Yet their Compliance Officer seems more concerned about getting me to write a letter of apology than making an effort to notify.

I'm still doing some research prior to submitting complaints to the appropriate authorities.

Update: 12.09.2014

I've still not had clarification from Sparta Telecom as to whether they have Notified the ICO and registered as a data controller. It's a criminal offence to process personal data without notifying the ICO unless you're exempt. It's a criminal offence not to update your notification if your data processing changes.

It is still not clear either to what extent Sparta intend to use the phone recordings. In their privacy policy they state that they record phone conversations for training purposes but clearly they're using the recordings for other purposes.

I've not heard back from the company that apparently provided my phone number to Sparta so I've submitted a subject access request to that company.

The phone number used by Sparta has now been indexed by Google. If you're not happy with receiving phone calls from this company then you should contact them first to clarify that they phoned you and then submit a complaint to the ICO. If you receive calls from Sparta using another number please let me know so that I can get it indexed.

Update: 20.09.2014

Sparta Telecom have finally got their act together and registered as a data controller on 5 September 2014: (ZA074297)Sparta Telecom: opens in a new window. This supports my view that Sparta were likely to be committing a criminal offence by processing our information prior to this date. The failure to notify is a strict liability offence unless one is exempt.

I'm still waiting to hear back from the company that apparently supplied Sparta with a TPS screened mailing list containing my phone number. I'm going to take my time though and review all the relevant legislation because I want to make sure that I cover everything when I submit my complaints to the ICO and Ofcom.

Added: 29.08.2014 | Updated: 28.06.2015