Prodial Ltd, a lead generation firm responsible for over 46 million automated nuisance calls, has been fined £350,000 by the ICO. It’s the regulator’s largest ever fine.
Over 1,000 people complained to the ICO about the automated calls which played recorded messages relating to PPI claims. Complainants said they were called repeatedly and often there was no opt-out option. One person said they felt helpless that they could do nothing to stop the calls, which were very intrusive at all times of day or night. A doctor complained the constant spam calls were interfering with work as they had to answer calls in case of emergency.
Brighton-based Prodial Ltd was operating out of a residential property and also hiding its identity, which made it harder for people to report the calls.
Companies can use internet phone lines to cheaply make enormous numbers of recorded marketing calls. The law is clear that companies can only make calls to people who have specifically consented to being contacted in this way. But the ICO investigation found Prodial had no such consent.
Evidence from the ICO’s investigation showed the information from these calls was used to sell people’s personal details on to claims management companies. Records indicated the marketing campaign could have produced a turnover of nearly £1million. But despite the sums of money involved, the company has been placed into voluntary liquidation by one of its directors.
Christopher Graham, Information Commissioner said:
“This is one of the worst cases of cold calling we have ever come across. The volume of calls made in just a few months was staggering.
“This was a company that knew it was breaking the law. A company director admitted that once the ICO became involved, the company shut down. That stopped the calls, but we want to send a clear message to other firms that this type of law-breaking will not pay. That is why we have handed out our highest ever fine.
“No matter what companies do to try to avoid the law, we will find a way to act.”
The ICO’s enforcement team is currently working with the liquidators to recover the fine.
The ICO has also ordered three Manchester-based companies to stop making unsolicited nuisance calls. Enforcement notices issued yesterday went to a network of companies in Sale responsible for millions of automated nuisance calls which covered mis-sold pensions, PPI and debt management. The companies have been ordered to stop or face legal action.
Notes to Editors
- The Information Commissioner’s Office upholds information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Any monetary penalty is paid into the Treasury’s Consolidated Fund and is not kept by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
- To report a concern to the ICO telephone our helpline 0303 123 1113 or go to ico.org.uk/concerns/