A former claims company manager has been prosecuted for leading a team involved in ‘blagging’ calls to illegally obtain personal data.
Joseph Walker appeared at Liverpool Magistrates’ Court and pleaded guilty to 12 offences of unlawfully obtaining personal data under s55 of the Data Protection Act. A further 44 similar matters were taken into consideration.
The case concerned what are known as blagging calls, which were made to insurance companies to illegally obtain information about policy holders and road traffic accidents they had been involved in.
At the time of the offences, Walker worked as a manager at a claims management company, UK Claims Organisation Ltd, based in Liverpool.
Data originally obtained unlawfully from a car hire company was used by the employees of UK Claims Organisation Ltd as leads to make calls to insurance companies.
Staff used various guises, including claiming to be calling from solicitors firms, to obtain further information from the insurers, in order to be able to sell cases on to solicitors as personal injury claims.
Elizabeth Denham, Information Commissioner, said:
“Blagging calls are one of the many disreputable and dishonest tactics we see being used by rogue firms. People’s personal data has real monetary value and this practice shows the lengths some people and organisations will go to in order to get hold of it.”
Walker’s co-defendants, former UK Claims Organisation Ltd employees [name redacted] and [name redacted], were fined in November 2016 for their involvement, acting on the instruction of their manager.
Walker, 30 – who is originally from Liverpool but now resides in Australia – failed to attend that hearing and was arrested on a warrant during a visit back to the UK.
He was fined £2,000 and was also ordered to pay prosecution costs of £1,600 and a victim surcharge of £15.
Ms Denham added:
“We are happy the court has recognised the seriousness of the offence by imposing a fine.”
Notes for 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a new law that will replace the Data Protection Act 1998 and will apply in the UK from 25 May 2018. The government has confirmed that the UK’s decision to leave the EU will not affect the commencement of the GDPR.