The Information Commissioner’s Office has imposed a £250,000 fine on a Bury-based claims management lead generation company that made 15.1 million nuisance calls about payment protection insurance and other matters. The calls were made in the first half of 2019, and although only around 1.1 million of these calls were connected, the ICO says that the company did not obtain the necessary consent to make any of the calls it made. Cold calls about claims management services should not be made unless the recipient has given explicit prior consent to receiving them.

The ICO says that in the majority of cases, the company could not provide any evidence of how consent was obtained. The company claimed that this was no longer possible due to the length of time that had elapsed since the consumer’s data was purchased from a third party. 

Additionally, where the company believed it could demonstrate that consent had been obtained, the requirement for the consent to be “freely given, specific or informed was not satisfied.

When signing up to a particular website, and being asked to enter their name, address, email address, telephone number, and date of birth, users were confronted with this consent statement:

“I consent to allowing xxx to process your registration and to use the data you supply to show you targeted offers and marketing communications from our partners. You have read and agree to the terms and conditions & privacy policy. I consent that our partners and their partners may contact me by email, phone, SMS or post.”

However, there was no way that users would have been able to proceed to the next step on the site without indicating their acceptance to this statement – there was no opt-out. Furthermore, users were unable to indicate which specific companies or business sectors they wished to receive marketing from – this was a ‘one size fits all’ opt-in that actually encompassed as many as 151 companies.

Consumers who complained to the ICO mentioned the rude and aggressive nature of the callers and the fact that the company would also call multiple times per day. These complaints included:

“They call when my baby is asleep and wake her up. They disrupt my day. My husband is in the military and can rarely call me, when they call, I think it’s him and then I’m disappointed it’s them again.”

“I receive 3 or 4 calls a day from this number. I have asked them to stop calling and now they are calling 3 or 4 times a day. I have just lost my mum and have told them to stop but they have been making more calls.” 

“Asking about PPI she said has been given information about my PPI (not true). I told her she shouldn’t be calling and she became very rude. I told her that I hadn’t given permission for PPI calls and it was illegal, she became rude and loud.” 

Andy Curry, Head of Investigations at the ICO, said:

“Nuisance calls continue to be a matter of great distress, annoyance and significant concern for the public and we will continue to find and take action against the worst offenders.

“The law exists for a reason, and that is to protect people from this high degree of intrusion into their private lives. Businesses must respect the law and the onus is on them to be aware of their responsibilities. Pleading ignorance of the rules, as was put forward in this case, will never be a valid argument.

“We encourage members of the public to report nuisance calls, texts and emails to us”.

The information shown in this article was correct at the time of publication. Articles are not routinely reviewed by Scott Robert and as such are not updated. Please be aware of the facts, circumstances or legal position may change after publication of the article.