The Information Commissioner’s Office has fined a Swansea-based firm £130,000 after it made 106,987 unauthorised cold calls about pensions over a four-month period.

Changes were made to the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations in January 2019. The new laws say that firms can only make marketing calls related to pensions if:

  • The firm is authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority, or is the trustee or manager of an occupational or personal pension scheme, and
  • The recipient of the call has previously given their consent to being called or has a relationship with the firm which means they expect to receive calls of this nature

The firm in question, in this case, was unable to satisfy any of these requirements.

The firm said it held ‘Appointed Representative – Introducer’ status with the FCA. Firstly, the ICO notes that it did not obtain this status until after the cold call campaign commenced, and secondly, to be an ‘Appointed Representative – Introducer’ is not sufficient to allow a firm to make pension cold calls – they must actually hold FCA authorisation.

In respect of whether the recipients had consented to receiving the calls, the firm told the ICO that the consumers’ contact details had been obtained from third parties and that “it is highly likely that these records have consented to receiving calls from us”, but the firm could not specifically provide details to demonstrate that each individual had given their consent.

Some of the complaints the ICO received about the firm included:

“They were cold calling me about pensions. I told them it was illegal now.”

“They told me they’d got my information from a data source, probably from a survey I’d completed. I do not recall completing a survey.”

“Man provided me with a website address when I asked him who the company was and where they got my information from. They were trying to get me to sign up to a pension.”

The fine will be reduced to £104,000 if it is paid by October 7.

Fines of up to £500,000 can now be imposed for firms which breach the rules. The law was changed primarily to protect consumers from falling victim to scams, given that many pension swindles start with the victim receiving a cold call.

Andy Curry, ICO Head of Investigations, said:

“Unwanted pension calls can cause real distress and even significant financial hardship to often vulnerable people, who can end up losing their hard-earned pension pot to scammers.

“This company clearly flouted the law when they should have known better. Businesses making direct marketing calls are responsible for understanding their responsibilities under the legislation, ignorance is no excuse.”

The Economic Secretary to the Treasury, John Glen MP, said:

“Pensions cold calls are the most common method used to initiate pension scams, which can rob people of their hard-earned savings and ruin lives. That’s why we banned them. Today’s fine should act as a warning to others that pensions cold calling is unacceptable, and those found flouting the rules will be held to account.”

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 of the facts, circumstances or legal position may change after publication of the article