LONDON — Ofcom, the U.K.'s chief communications regulator, last week imposed a penalty of £1,500 against the operator of 14 adult websites offering face-sitting, smoking and foot-fetish fare.
Online adult operator James Farey, who ran the U.K.-based HardGlamCash program with accompanying websites, was found to be liable for not registering the sites with ATVOD, which regulates video-on-demand content, and allowing access to sexually explicit R18-equivalent material without a system in place that would restrict under-18s from accessing it.
Farey's websites that were found in violation of Rule11, which pertains to age verification, included HardGlam.com, UKFacesittingSluts.com, BigObjectSluts.com, HardcoreMachines.com, SlutsInCostumes.com, UKFootSluts.com, UKHardcoreFucking.com, UKHardcoreLesbians.com, UKNylonSluts.com, UKPantieSluts.com, SmokeyMouths.com, UKStockingSluts.com and OnlyCFNM.com.
Farey could have faced a much larger penalty for violating Rule 11, as well as other violations relative to failing to register the VOD sites with ATVOD. Ofcom noted that Farey could have faced penalties up to £250,000 in the case.
But Ofcom in its ruling said that Farey had closed all of the sites last month and that he thought the correspondence ATVOD originally had sent him was part of a scam
Farey "explained he had not intended to delay or impede the regulatory process and that there were a number of exceptional personal circumstances which had led to him, in his words, putting his, “head in the sand.”
"He noted that he was not well connected in the adult or VOD industries and had run a business focusing on niche fetishes — principally women smoking — for nine years without realizing compliance with ATVOD rules was required," Ofcom said. "When ATVOD contacted him, he had not known where to turn for advice and, having previously fallen victim to scams, had erroneously believed registration with ATVOD was either a scam or at least not a legal requirement."
Farey also said the assumptions in Ofcom’s preliminary view “massively overstated” the size of his business and expressed concerns about his ability to continue the business were a fine over four figures to be imposed.
"He said that since Ofcom had taken action in relation to the service, his main payment provider had suspended payment provision in relation to the service and he had not been able to receive any income or publish new content, leaving him with the costs for the premises he used for filming but no income to cover those costs," Ofcom said. "He indicated that he had to borrow money to cover these costs."