Regulator launches three new videos aimed at helping small businesses navigate electronic communications law
The Information Commissioners’ Office (ICO) has issued fines totalling £180,000 for two companies that made more than 480,000 unlawful marketing calls to businesses signed up with the UK’s “Do not call” register.
The ICO has today also announced the launch of a suite of bite-size video resources to help small business and sole traders ensure their marketing is compliant with legislation.
The ICO’s investigation found that Ice Telecommunications Ltd, Crewe and UK Direct Business Solutions Limited, Sunderland made repeated and persistent calls to businesses, with some calls described as rude and argumentative. The ICO received more than 120 complaints about the two companies, which had also continued to make calls despite repeated warnings from the Telephone Preference Service (TPS).
It is against the law for organisations to make live marketing calls to anyone signed up with the Corporate Telephone Preference Service (CTPS) or TPS – “Do not call” register - unless the individual has consented to receive the call.
“We are here to protect UK businesses, as well as the public, from unwanted marketing communications. It’s not acceptable that people in their place of work were made to feel uncomfortable all because they simply answered their phone.
“The fact that a number is in the public domain does not give free rein to marketers to make calls to businesses. The law is clear. Before any marketing calls are made, numbers must be screened against the do not call register.
“These fines are another clear message to companies flouting the law – we will take action to ensure the public and UK businesses are protected, and legitimate businesses complying with the law do not lose out”.
- Andy Curry, ICO Head of Investigations
Details of the fines and examples of complaints received include:
Ice Telecommunications Ltd (Ice) based in Crewe, Cheshire made 72,682 unsolicited marketing calls to businesses registered with the CTPS or TPS between 13 September 2021 and 31 January 2022. The ICO received 30 complaints about Ice, and the TPS advised it had written to the company on 19 occasions outlining complaint details, without response. The ICO’s investigation found that Ice: was not able to provide copies of contracts with third party suppliers of marketing lists showing CTPS and TPS numbers suppressed; and continued to make illegal calls whilst under investigation. The ICO has fined Ice £80,000 and issued an enforcement notice ordering the company to stop making calls to CTPS and TPS registered numbers.
Ice made repeated and persistent calls to people, with complaints including:
“Was the 5th or 6th call in two weeks from the company, refused to take us off their mailing list or disclose where they got our details from.”
“This has happened for 5 months, I have asked on every single occasion to be removed and this has not happened. I receive this 1-2 times a week”.
UK Direct Business Solutions Limited (UKDBS), based in Sunderland made 410,369 unsolicited marketing calls to businesses registered with the CTPS or TPS between 1 March 2020 and 31 October 2021. The ICO received 96 complaints, and the TPS advised it had written to the company on 17 occasions outlining complaint details. During the ICO’s investigation UKDBS was unable to evidence it screened details it sourced from the internet against the TPS register or any reference to electronic marketing laws or the TPS / CTPS register in its training materials. The ICO has fined UKDBS £100,000.
Complainants noted the rude and argumentative nature of the calls including:
“Electricity sales call - very rude and wouldn't take no for an answer when politely informed that we're TPS registered and don't wish to take the call from them.”
“Caller demanding to speak to business owner about energy supply. Asked where they obtained our number and was told 'Google Search'. Informed caller that we were on TPS opt out list and was told that TPS was useless. I asked for more information about the company they were calling from and the caller became offensive and hung up”.
For more information about the ICO’s work to tackle nuisance calls visit ico.org.uk/nuisancecalls.
Queries around Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) are one of the ICO helpline’s most asked-about topics. The new series of three, two-minute videos cover direct marketing essentials, including email, text and telephone marketing. Offering quick and easy advice and tips on how small organisations can unlock the value of the personal information they hold to help their business succeed, they’re available to view now on the ICO’s SME web hub.
The ICO is hosting a free one-hour marketing webinar on 23 May 2023. Topics covered will include electronic marketing, privacy notices, and subject access requests (SARS). ICO experts will be sharing tips on how to handle people’s information confidently and lawfully. It’s also an opportunity to get involved and ask the ICO any questions. Places are limited and can be booked here until 19 May 2023.
Further information on B2B marketing can also be found here: Business-to-business marketing.