22Dec

Data protection regulator the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has revealed that it has searched two company premises in Nottingham as it continues its battle against organisations that make nuisance calls.

ICO enforcement officers joined forces with the Claims Management Regulator and Nottinghamshire Police to execute a search warrant, where computer equipment and documents were seized. The ICO says that the network it is investigating is “suspected of making hundreds of millions of nuisance calls,” all apparently concerning personal injury claims.

Andy Curry, the ICO’s Enforcement Group Manager, said:

“People are sick and tired of receiving nuisance calls. The evidence we had already gathered prior to these warrants suggests this network, operating both in the UK and overseas, is responsible for making hundreds of millions of them.

“We hope the material we have now recovered will help identify other organisations and individuals in a lengthy and complex investigation, and assist the ICO and our partners in taking enforcement action. It will have the added effect of disrupting these people’s activities, which cause so much annoyance and distress to the UK public.”

The ICO has issued a number of fines to companies who have broken the laws regarding unsolicited marketing calls. Many of these companies have been from the claims management sector, and the Claims Management Regulator at the Ministry of Justice has fined, or banned, a number of companies over this practice. Acting in this manner can also result in company directors being disqualified for several years.

Under section 22 of the European Union’s Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations, automated marketing calls and marketing texts and emails can only be sent to people who have actively consented in advance to receiving such communications. Including an option to opt out of future texts within the message is not sufficient.

The consent wording used by companies must also be explicit in nature, and must make consumers aware that by signing their name, or ticking the box, they are agreeing to receive marketing communications of this nature.

Live marketing phone calls can in principle be made to the general public, but companies must take steps to ensure that they do not contact anyone who has registered with the Telephone Preference Service, or who has previously informed the company that they wish to opt out of receiving cold calls.

In its latest annual report, the ICO said it had fined 23 firms a total of £1,923,000 for breaches of the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations. The regulator also secured 21 criminal convictions against firms and individuals who breached data protection laws.

The maximum fine for breaches of the law will increase dramatically next year when the General Data Protection Regulation comes into force.

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.