The UK’s independent authority set up to uphold information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.

Sales calls

Direct Marketing Calls

The number of concerns reported about sales calls, including live and automated calls, increased over the previous quarter and continued to increase to 17,101 in July (their highest levels since April 2013). Numbers of concerns dropped to 12,541 in August and then went up again (although not to previous levels) to 14,737 in September.

Sales call concerns reported by month

Automated calls

We routinely analyse data collected from consumers, and use it to identify organisations that cause us concern. We collect the data from the concerns raised by consumers using our online reporting tool.

Automated calls continue to generate the largest number of concerns reported to us – specifically those relating to green-energy/home improvement topics. For example, we received over 12,000 concerns relating to unwanted automated sales calls about boilers alone between July 2014 and September 2014. This is likely to be led by organisations trying to take advantage of public awareness in relation to the Government’s Green Deal Home Improvement Fund, launched on 1 June 2014. We are in contact with relevant industry bodies and Trading Standards to identify those companies who are breaching the regulations, in order to take enforcement action.

Numbers of concerns reported about automated calls increased every month from February 2014 to July 2014, peaking at 10,884, their highest level since April 2013. 7,061 concerns were reported in August and 8,286 in September

During this quarter (July to September 2014) we issued 103 third party information notices to telecommunications service providers. We use third party information notices to try to identify the subscriber details of telephone numbers we believe have made unsolicited marketing calls to consumers.

Often, where it is possible to identify the numbers, they link to overseas organisations and we make referrals to the appropriate regulatory authority, if there is one, in that country. As a result, in this quarter we have made seven referrals to other European regulators via the Consumer Protection Cooperation mechanism, and made one referral to the Telecoms Regulatory Authority of India.

Read our advice about what to do if you have received unwanted sales calls

We published the above information on 11 November 2014. We plan to update it each quarter.

Live calls

Live calls are unsolicited direct marketing calls received by consumers from a real live person.

We routinely analyse data collected from consumers and use it to identify organisations that cause us concern. We collect the data from concerns reported to the ICO and the Telephone Preference Service (TPS).

Live calls by topic

Numbers of concerns about live calls have remained relatively steady throughout the quarter (July to September), with 6,217 concerns reported in July 2014, 5,480 reported in August (reflecting an overall dip in concerns) and 6,451 in September. Concerns reported are slightly down on the previous three months, with 18,594 reported from April to June 2014 and 18,148 concerns reported July to September 2014.

Accident claims, lifestyle surveys and computer scams are the most complained about topics. Where lifestyle surveys are conducted for genuine market research, they may not be subject to the Regulations. However, very often they are used to generate sales leads, and therefore are subject to the rules.

Computer scams may involve someone trying to gain access to your computer remotely to control it or steal sensitive information. These calls are not direct marketing, and we refer information to law enforcement agencies where we uncover instances of potential fraud or computer misuse.

We are currently monitoring 15 organisations for compliance with the Regulations. We have also held 11 compliance meetings with some of those organisations to discuss how they can improve their compliance when engaged in direct marketing to consumers. Over the last year, the average reduction in complaints for those organisations which successfully negotiate ICO monitoring is over 70%.

Recent lessons learned from the compliance meetings we have conducted this year are that:

Staff using the TPS screening databases must be adequately trained. Using untrained staff increases the risks of something going wrong, defeats the purpose of screening against TPS, and is a waste of the money that the organisation paid to subscribe to TPS;

If an organisation makes high volume calls it should, wherever possible, invest in technical solutions, which are likely to prove more cost-effective and easier for the organisation to control;

Organisations should consider whether they should rely on third parties to do their list screening. Organisations typically pay a premium for this type of service and it may be more cost effective to do it ‘in-house’, and have certainty that it is being done right;

Organisations relying on opted in third-party data for marketing campaigns should consider that, if it is generating complaints to the TPS, there is a likelihood there are serious issues with how that data was collected and whether the subscribers’ anticipated its use by their organisation;

The contract between an organisation and its data supplier should provide an effective remedy in relation to the accuracy of the information the organisation is buying and its compliance with the Regulations. If it doesn’t, it is the purchasing organisation that will be the one at risk of regulatory action from the ICO.  

The following companies are currently being monitored by the ICO because we have identified concerns about their compliance with the Regulations:

My IML Limited;
Eolive Data and Media Limited;
Midlands Claims Specialist Limited;
CJ Electrical;
Simply Outbound Limited;
Zenith Staybrite Limited;
Solar Tech North East Limited;
Nuisance Call Prevention Service Limited;
Cold Call Elimination Limited;
Solar Fusion Limited;
McCaskill & Morse Limited;
GMG Financial Services Limited;
Fresh Start Financial Management Limited;
Green Deal Savings Limited;
My Planet Limited;

The following five companies have been removed from ICO monitoring because of improvements to complaints volumes or processes:

Intello Limited
Action 365 Limited
Enviroglaze Limited
Cascade Financial Limited
Assuranty Nationwide Limited

We are considering enforcement action against three organisations.

Assessment of organisations, July to September 2014

Improvement rating Description Name/ No. of organisations

Good improvements demonstrated.
Enforcement action unlikely to be required.

Intello Limited;
Action 365 Limited;
Enviroglaze Limited;
Cascade Financial Limited;
Assuranty Nationwide Limited.

Concerns about compliance.
Enforcement action possible.

My IML Limited;
Eolive Data and Media Limited;
Midlands Claims Specialist Limited;
CJ Electrical;
Simply Outbound Limited;
Zenith Staybrite Limited;
Solar Tech North East Limited;
Nuisance Call Prevention Service Limited;
Cold Call Elimination Limited;
Solar Fusion Limited;
McCaskill & Morse Limited;
GMG Financial Services Limited;
Fresh Start Financial Management Limited;
Green Deal Savings Limited;
My Planet Limited.

Risk of non-compliance.
Enforcement action under consideration.

1  x home improvements
1 x claims management company
1 x lead generation

We published the above information on 11 November 2014. We plan to update it each quarter.