A boiler replacement company that was listed as one of Britain’s most complained about nuisance callers has been fined £180,000 by the ICO.
FEP Heatcare Ltd made 2.6 million unwanted calls, which played a recorded message promoting the company’s products and services.
ICO investigators were able to trace the calls to the Glasgow-based company even though the phone messages did not identify the caller.
Ken Macdonald, Assistant Commissioner for Scotland, said:
“This company was already on our hit list. FEP Heatcare thought they could avoid detection by hiding their identity, but we tracked them down and have taken action.”
FEP Heatcare Ltd first came to the attention of the ICO in February 2015 when it appeared on a list compiled by the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) of the top 20 most complained about nuisance call companies.
Despite a warning from the ICO that it must operate within the rules or face action, FEP Heatcare deliberately broke the rules again, this time making marketing calls playing a recorded message.
Calls that play a recorded message must only be made to people who have given the organisation their permission to receive this type of call. FEP Heatcare admitted it did not have that consent.
The ICO found that FEP instigated 2,692,217 unwanted automated calls between April and July 2015.
Complaints to the ICO included:
“I have MS and could do without any stress.”
“I am disabled. I don't very often get calls on my landline, so it means I have to get up and walk to the phone, which causes me inconvenience and pain - frustrating when it’s a nuisance advertising call that I didn't want anyway.”
“My husband has dementia and could agree to anything if I wasn't there to take the call.”
Mr Macdonald said:
“We know people hate nuisance calls and what this company did made people angry enough to complain.
“The kind of calls FEP Heatcare was making – recorded and about energy services – generated the most complaints to the ICO in February this year. Combined with automated calls about PPI, they made up 66% of our recorded complaints.”
The ICO has also issued a “stop” notice to FEP Heatcare to ensure it does not make any further nuisance automated marketing calls. If it does not comply with the notice, the company could face court 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 (FOIA) 2000, Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) 2004 and Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003. Scotland has its own Information Commissioner dealing with FOIA and EIR.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- There are specific rules on:
- 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/.