A claims management company that made 17.5 million calls asking people if they had suffered hearing loss at work has been fined £250,000 by the ICO.

The nuisance calls were made by Blackburn-based Check Point Claims Ltd. People who picked up the phone heard a recorded message encouraging them to claim compensation for job-related hearing loss.

The ICO launched an investigation after receiving 248 complaints.

Head of Enforcement at the ICO, Stephen Eckersley said:

“Nuisance calls are bad enough, but picking up the phone to a recorded message can be the most frustrating and intrusive thing of all.

“That’s why the law is so strict – it’s there to protect consumers and in practice it’s very difficult to make a legal automated marketing call.

“If you get one, report it. If you’re making one, beware. We will take action.”

Companies making calls that play a recorded message can only do so if they have gained specific permission from people to make that type of call. Companies must also identify themselves within the message. Check Point Claims Ltd did neither. 

The ICO found that Check Point Claims Ltd instigated 17,565,690 automated marketing calls between March and September 2015, of which 6,388,122 were connected.

Check Point Claims has gone into liquidation. While this creates a challenge in recovering the fine, the ICO is committed to making the most of the UK’s insolvency regime to pursue money owed.

Mr Eckersley said:

“We will do everything within our power to recover fines on behalf of taxpayers and those millions of people who have been hounded by unwanted calls.

“Even companies that have stopped trading or try to get themselves struck off cannot escape because we will use all means available to chase the debt.”

From today, as part of a Government crackdown, cold callers will no longer be able to hide or disguise their phone number. And that will make it easier for the ICO to find and take action against companies making nuisance calls.

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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) sit alongside the Data Protection Act. They give people specific privacy rights in relation to electronic communications.
    1. 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.
    2. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Any monetary penalty is paid into the Treasury’s Consolidated Fund and is not kept by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
  8. To report a concern to the ICO telephone our helpline 0303 123 1113 or go to ico.org.uk/concerns/.