The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has fined Coventry firm Easyleads Limited £260,000 for making 16.7 million automated marketing calls.

It brings the penalties handed out in the last week to companies behind illegal recorded messages to £610,000, after the ICO fined Welsh-based Your Money Rights.

Easyleads did not have specific consent from people that it made automated calls to about boiler grants. This is against the law. The firm also broke the rules by not including a company name and contact details in the recorded message.

More than 550 complaints were made to the ICO about Easyleads Ltd. Many of these were from people who said they received multiple calls whilst others expressed further distress that they had been awaiting urgent calls only to receive an automated message about boiler replacements. Examples of complaints received include:

  • I am a pensioner and ex-directory so it was disturbing to get this call.
  • The repeated calls waste time and are like harassment.
  • I am waiting for a call about my mother’s imminent surgery. Rushing to answer the phone to these jokers makes me even more anxious. They need to be stopped.

There were further complaints about the calls being made late at night and in the early hours of the morning, with particular frequency over the May 2017 bank holiday weekend.

ICO investigators found the firm deliberately misled people by referring to a government scheme and the offer of a free boiler.

Andy Curry, ICO Enforcement Group Manager, said:

“We hear first-hand from people how utterly disruptive, annoying and sometimes distressing automated calls can be. Firms cannot expect to get away with intruding into people’s lives like this.

“We’re here to take action, like we’ve done today, to stamp out this modern day torment. When people report nuisance calls to the ICO, it helps us do that.”

Following the ICO’s investigation, Companies House posted plans for Easyleads Ltd to be struck off and dissolved. The ICO has made clear that it is committed to recovering fines it has issued and will work with insolvency practitioners and liquidators if a company moves to insolvency after being fined.

The ICO’s powers will be further strengthened when the government introduces a new law allowing it to fine the company directors behind nuisance call firms. Making directors responsible will stop them avoiding fines by putting their company into liquidation.

Mr Curry said:

“The law change to make directors personally liable for illegal marketing calls can’t come soon enough.

“If a company tries to avoid an ICO fine by going out of business then they’re no longer making troublesome nuisance calls. But the change in the law will add to the tools we have to hold them fully – and personally -accountable for the nuisance and distress they’ve caused.”

Nuisance calls can be reported via the ICO’s online reporting tool.

 

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. The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a new law which will apply in the UK from 25 May 2018. The Government has confirmed the UK’s decision to leave the EU will not affect the commencement of the GDPR. The Government is introducing measures related to this and wider data protection reforms in a Data Protection Bill.
  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).
  1. To report a concern to the ICO telephone our helpline 0303 123 1113 or go to org.uk/concerns/