23Jan

The data protection watchdog has promised that 2017 will be “a tough year for nuisance call crooks,” as it revealed that it not only imposed £1 million worth of fines between April and December 2016, but that it also has a further £2 million worth of fines “in the pipeline.”

Writing a blog on his organisation’s website, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) Group Enforcement Manager Andy Curry commented that “we’ve got more tools than ever to tackle the frustration and upset unlawful cold calls can cause.”

Mr Curry said an average of 370 complaints per day were made to the ICO last year over this issue. He thanked the public for their help in tackling the problem, and urged consumers to adopt the following measures:

• Inform the firms who contact them that they do not wish to receive communications of this type
• Register with the TPS
• Report to the ICO any firm that cold calls them more than 28 days after their TPS registration has taken effect

Mr Curry highlighted the fact that the ICO is now responsible for the Telephone Preference Service (TPS), making for “more effective passing of intelligence to [the ICO’s] enforcement officers.” He also made reference to the impending change in the law where it will be possible to fine company directors as well as the firms themselves when they breach the rules relating to marketing communications.

Examples he gave of nuisance calls made by firms in the recent past include: calls in the middle of the night attempting to sell burglar alarms, and the tactics of personal injury claims firms when calling victims of car crashes. In December 2016, 29% of the marketing calls reported to the ICO were made by accident claims firms.

The ICO can take action over both live marketing calls and automated marketing calls. The former cannot be made to anyone registered with the TPS, or who has previously informed the firm in question that they do not wish to receive marketing calls. The latter should not be made to anyone who has not previously given explicit consent to receiving this type of communication.

Marketing texts are covered by the same rules as automated calls, i.e. explicit prior consent is required from the recipient.

In the financial services arena, many of the recent ICO enforcement cases have concerned loan firms or firms offering to assist with mis-selling claims.

In November 2016, Silver City Tech Ltd was fined £100,000 and Oracle Insurance Brokers Ltd £30,000 after each sending large numbers of texts suggesting that the recipients could obtain a loan.

In June 2016, Advanced VOIP Solutions Ltd was fined £180,000. The company made large numbers of automated calls regarding insurance, packaged bank accounts (PBAs) and flight delays. Even if customers followed the instructions in the call to opt out of receiving future calls, the calls continued, with some households reporting as many as 50 calls a day.

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