Companies making nuisance calls have been warned to expect more fines in 2016.

The ICO imposed more than a million pounds worth of penalties for nuisance calls and text messages in 2015, with the same amount in the pipeline for early 2016.

The fines included:

  • £295,000 of fines for companies offering call blocking or nuisance call prevention services
  • A £80,000 fine to a PPI claims firm that sent 1.3million text messages
  • A £200,000 fine to a solar panels company that made six million nuisance calls
  • A £130,000 fine to a pharmacy company that was selling customer details to postal marketing companies

Total fines related to nuisance marketing in 2015:

Andy Curry, ICO Enforcement Group Manager, said:

“Nuisance marketing calls frustrate people. The law is clear around what is allowed, and we’ve been clear that we will fine companies who don’t follow the law. That will continue in 2016. We’ve got 90 ongoing investigations, and a million pounds worth of fines in the pipeline.”

The ICO received around 170,000 concerns in 2015 from people who’ve received nuisance calls and texts, a similar number to the previous year (2014: 175,330). PPI claims prompted the most complaints, followed by accident claims. Areas identified as emerging sectors for nuisance calls and texts included call blocking services, oven cleaning services and industrial hearing injury claims.

Complaints showed the level of distress that calls can cause:

Telecom Protection Service:

“I was recovering from major surgery at the time and the call caused me distress. The caller was very smooth talking and did not make it clear that he was selling a commercial service that was nothing to do with the TPS. The call was frankly misleading.”

HELM:

“I am receiving daily updates regarding a friend in hospital, and am expecting the worst. When these calls come in I expect it to be from the hospital.”

Cold Call Elimination:

“This company has 'conned' my mother out of £84.99 for an unnecessary service ... my parents are 87 and 86 respectively; my father is suffering from dementia.”

“I am looking after my elderly mother who has terminal cancer. She initially answered and I could see I needed to intervene as I could hear the sales guy not giving up. I took the phone and asked him who he was and what he wanted. He got quite annoyed that I had intervened and I told him we were not interested.”

Point One Marketing:

“Very upset and angry that my mum, who has dementia, was talked into giving credit card details when it would have been obvious to the caller that she had dementia. This caused my mum distress because I had to explain why her debit card had to be cancelled and what she had done. This has caused both of us great distress. Had I not checked her call log and … the number that had called her I would not have known it had happened at all.”

 

Notes to Editors

  1. The Information Commissioner’s Office upholds information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.
  1. The ICO has specific responsibilities set out in the Data Protection Act 1998, the Freedom of Information Act 2000, Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003.
  1. The ICO can take action to change the behaviour of organisations and individuals that collect, use and keep personal information. This includes criminal prosecution, non-criminal enforcement and audit. The ICO has the power to impose a monetary penalty on a data controller of up to £500,000.
  1. Anyone who processes personal information must comply with eight principles of the Data Protection Act, which make sure that personal information is:
  • fairly and lawfully processed;
  • processed for limited purposes;
  • adequate, relevant and not excessive;
  • accurate and up to date;
  • not kept for longer than is necessary;
  • processed in line with your rights;
  • secure; and
  • not transferred to other countries without adequate protection.
  1. The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) sit alongside the Data Protection Act. They give people specific privacy rights in relation to electronic communications.

There are specific rules on:

  • marketing calls, emails, texts and faxes;
  • cookies (and similar technologies);
  • keeping communications services secure; and
  • customer privacy as regards traffic and location data, itemised billing, line identification, and directory listings.

We aim to help organisations comply with PECR and promote good practice by offering advice and guidance. We will take enforcement action against organisations that persistently ignore their obligations.

  1. Civil Monetary Penalties (CMPs) are subject to a right of appeal to the (First-tier Tribunal) General Regulatory Chamber against the imposition of the monetary penalty and/or the amount of the penalty specified in the monetary penalty notice.
  1. Any monetary penalty is paid into the Treasury’s Consolidated Fund and is not kept by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).