17May

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has imposed its largest fine to date for nuisance calls. Keurboom Communications Ltd, based in Dunstable, Bedfordshire, was fined £400,000 by the data protection regulator for making almost 100 million unsolicited automated calls regarding payment protection insurance (PPI) and road traffic accident claims.

Keurboom’s 99,535,654 calls were made over an 18-month period, and prompted 1,036 complaints. Many consumers complained about being called more than once on the same day, and about calls made at unsocial times of the day.

The calls included an option for recipients to opt out of future calls by pressing ‘9’. However, firstly this often did not work, and secondly, even if it had worked, it would not have been sufficient to demonstrate compliance with the law. The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations say that companies can only make automated marketing calls to people who have given explicit prior consent to receiving this type of communication.

The ICO adds that many of the calls were misleading, in that they implied that the matter was urgent, or falsely claimed that the call related to a recent traffic accident the recipient had supposedly been involved in, or to an ongoing PPI claim that the recipient had already tabled.

The regulator also says that Keurboom did not co-operate with its investigation.

It is however unclear whether the ICO will be able to recover the fine. Like so many companies who have received ICO fines, Keurboom has gone into voluntary liquidation. The press release says that the ICO “is committed to recovering the fine by working with the liquidator and insolvency practitioners.” Government proposals that would have allowed the ICO to fine the company’s senior managers up to £500,000, and would therefore have prevented the management from avoiding the fine by using this loophole, have yet to become law.

Keurboom has also been prosecuted in the courts for non-compliance with the ICO’s requirements. It has at various times failed to comply with seven information notices requiring it to provide information to the ICO. Keurboom’s director, Gregory Rudd, pleaded guilty at Luton Magistrates Court in April 2016 to the charge of failing to comply with an information notice. Keurboom was fined £1,500, and was also ordered by the court to pay £435.95 costs and a victim surcharge of £120. Mr Rudd was fined £1,000, in addition to costs of £435.95 and a victim surcharge of £100. The episode has of course landed Mr Rudd with a criminal record.

Steve Eckersley, Head of Enforcement at the ICO said:

“Keurboom showed scant regard for the rules, causing upset and distress to people unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end of one its 100 million calls.

“The unprecedented scale of its campaign and Keurboom’s failure to co-operate with our investigation has resulted in the largest fine issued by the Information Commissioner for nuisance calls.

“These calls have now stopped – as has Keurboom – but our work has not. We’ll continue to track down companies that blight people’s lives with nuisance calls, texts and emails.”

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.