The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has fined two energy companies a total of £250,000 for bombarding people and businesses on the UK’s ‘do not call’ register with unlawful marketing calls.
Maxen Power Supply Ltd, an energy supplier from Ilford, Essex, and Crown Glazing Ltd, a green energy firm based in Preston, Lancashire, both made unsolicited marketing calls to people and businesses while falsely claiming to represent other organisations – such as the National Grid, other energy suppliers or the UK Government.
It is against the law for organisations to make marketing calls to anyone signed up with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) and Corporate Telephone Preference Service (CTPS), which operate a “do not call” register, unless the individual or business has explicitly consented to receive these calls.
The ICO has issued a £130,000 fine to Crown Glazing Ltd for making more than 500,000 direct marketing calls to people who had registered with the TPS at least 28 days prior, resulting in 37 complaints.
While the majority of calls were advertising double-glazing and a free energy test, some of the complaints also claimed that the firm misleadingly suggested they were representing the UK Government and working to improve energy savings.
Maxen Power Supply Ltd has been fined £120,000 after the ICO and TPS received more than 100 complaints about unsolicited marketing calls to businesses and people registered with the TPS and CTPS. Complaints indicated that people were receiving multiple calls on the same day, receiving repeated calls despite requests to opt-out, and were subject to “aggressive” marketing tactics causing potential financial damage.
The complaints also showed that Maxen Power Supply Ltd was making calls from overseas call centres that purported to be from National Grid or the recipient’s existing energy supplier. The firm claimed that it could help people save money on their energy bills by switching contracts, while asking for information about their current supplier and meter readings. The company denied responsibility for the complaints raised, claiming these international call centres were “independent contractors” and “third party intermediaries.”
“Nobody should be made to feel uncomfortable after simply answering the phone. People and businesses register with the TPS and CTPS for a clear reason; to stop unwanted marketing calls and protect their privacy. These companies have not only broken the law by failing to check the ‘do not call’ register, but also caused distress and potential financial damage to businesses on the receiving end of their deceptive sales tactics.
“In the case of Maxen Power Supply Ltd, there is no way of knowing just how many unlawful calls were made due to the use of false company names and ‘spoofed’ caller identities (CLIs). This fine should send a clear message that companies cannot avoid the law and avoid detection by the use of third-parties and overseas call centres. The ICO will continue to take action to ensure both the public and UK businesses are protected.”
- Andy Curry, ICO Head of Investigations
In addition to the fines, the ICO issued an enforcement notice to both companies ordering them to stop calling people and businesses registered with the TPS and CTPS, or who had previously objected to such calls.
Advice for members of the public
To help you, your friends and relatives stop unlawful marketing calls you can:
- Register landlines and mobile numbers with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) and the Corporate Telephone Preference Service (CTPS) free of charge. The TPS and CTPS is a register used by legitimate marketing companies to identify people and businesses that have said they don’t want to receive marketing calls. Alternatively, you can tell the company directly that you do not wish to be contacted.
- Be bold. You do not owe these callers your time, your courtesy nor your money. So, hang up and report any nuisance calls you receive to the ICO using our online nuisance calls reporting tool.
- Refer concerns that you or someone you know has been the victim of fraud to Action Fraud (in England, Northern Ireland and Wales) and Police Scotland (in Scotland); wider concerns about a business’ practices can be referred to Trading Standards; any abandoned calls that you receive to Ofcom.
ICO’s work to tackle nuisance calls and texts
The ICO enforces the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003 (PECR), which cover the rules for organisations wishing to make direct marketing calls, texts or emails.
We have issued more than £2,440,000 million in fines against companies responsible for nuisance calls, texts and emails in since April 2022. Some of these investigations began with a single complaint from a member of the public.
We have a robust but fair approach when recovering fines, providing payment plans where debtors are in genuine financial hardship. However, where we identify organisations that can pay but won’t pay, we will pursue formal recovery action that can result in insolvency.
Equally, where directors seek to avoid payment via insolvency we actively exercise our full rights as a creditor, including nominating insolvency practitioners whose investigations can result in personal claims against directors. Since 2017, more than 36 directors have been disqualified as a result of our work to protect the public against nuisance calls and texts.
For more information about the ICO’s work to tackle nuisance calls and texts visit ico.org.uk/nuisancecalls.