The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has issued fines totalling £480,000 to four separate companies for making unlawful calls to numbers registered with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS).
Chameleon Marketing (H.I) Ltd from Leeds; Rancom Security Limited based in Sutton Coldfield; Repair & Assure Limited from Redhill and Solar Style Solutions Limited in Stockton on Tees were found to have made 2.4million illegal calls between them, resulting in over 250 complaints to the ICO and the TPS.
It is against the law to make marketing calls to numbers that have been registered with the TPS for more than 28 days, unless people have provided consent.
Andy Curry, Head of Investigations at the ICO, said:
“Nuisance calls are an invasion of people’s privacy that can cause great distress and worry, particularly where people have taken steps to protect themselves by signing up to the TPS. We will always take robust action against companies who we find are ignoring the law in pursuit of their own gain.
“Business owners operating in this field have a duty to both familiarise themselves with and comply with the law. Attempting to rely on ignorance or naivety or trying to pass the buck to suppliers will never be a valid defence.
“The law is simple and clear, businesses must not call numbers that are registered with the TPS unless they have valid consent to do so. The consequences for those that choose to flout the law strike at a company’s reputation, and balance sheet with fines and where necessary enforcement notices ordering firms to stop making calls.”
“We were able to bring these four companies to account with the help of the public who took the time to complain to the TPS and us. We encourage anybody to sign up to the free TPS service and report any subsequent unwanted calls they receive.”
Chameleon Marketing (H.I) Ltd (CML)
Between 17 March and 2 July 2019, Leeds based CML made 617,323 direct marketing calls to people registered with the TPS. The calls promoted boiler replacements and resulted in 52 complaints from the public including:
“Constantly ringing. I have 4-6 calls a day off this number. even the weekend. they even ring straight back when I cancel the call.” [sic]
The ICO investigation found CML did not conduct any due diligence on its data supplier and the consents it was relying on were insufficient. The ICO has fined CML £100,000.
Rancom Security Limited (RSL)
The ICO and TPS received 94 complaints about the West Midlands security systems company for calls it made between 1 June 2017 and 31 May 2018. Of the 851,392 calls made 565,344 were to TPS registered users.
One member of the public said:
“I was very annoyed that someone was targeting my mother with lies in the hope she would buy something from them. She told them the first time that she wasn't interested but they phoned twice more. She is anxious about them phoning again.” [sic]
During the ICO investigation, RSL was inconsistent with its evidence, was not able to show any due diligence it had conducted and could not provide any evidence of a TPS licence. The ICO has fined RSL £110,000.
Repair & Assure Limited (RAL)
Redhill based RAL were responsible for making 1,103,292 nuisance calls between 2 January and 11 June 2019. The ICO and TPS received 88 complaints about the calls, which all related to washing machine warranties.
One complainant noted:
“Caller enquired about Hotpoint washing machine that I do not own. I own a Zanussi. Prior to any sales pitch, I had informed the caller that he was breaking the rules / lats regarding restricted numbers and sales calls. He said he was not. I informed him that my number is on the TPS service and that by calling he was indeed breaching the law regarding this. He again attempted to continue the call at which point I put the phone down on him”. [sic]
RAL initially advised the ICO that its “opt in” data was obtained from 12 third party suppliers and it did not screen against the TPS register. It was subsequently found that all the data was collected via telephone marketing surveys. The ICO has fined RAL £180,000 and issued it with an enforcement notice ordering it to stop making marketing calls within 30 days.
Solar Style Solutions Limited (SSSL)
The ICO investigated the Stockton on Tees renewable energy technology company between 1 January to 29 April 2019. Over the four month period SSSL made 188,665 calls of which 126,019 were to TPS registered users and generated 29 complaints including:
“It is primarily a disruption rushing to the phone only to discover it is an unsolicited call, and then annoying to discover that no matter how many times you ask to be removed from a list (and promises made to do so) that the calls keep coming. It annoys me that they have our number. Where did they get it, who sold it to them? …..” [sic]
The ICO found a level of naivety on the part of SSSL with its business practices and that it was relying on “good faith” alone with its purchased data. The ICO has fined SSSL £90,000.
The TPS is a free service for mobile and landline phone users that allows people to opt out of receiving cold calls. The ICO became responsible for overseeing the TPS in December 2016.
To comply with the law, companies carrying out electronic marketing should subscribe to the TPS to receive the register of subscribers to screen against their own call lists.
Notes to Editors
- The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) 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 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the Freedom of Information Act 2000, Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003.
- The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) 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.
- The ICO has the power under PECR to impose a monetary penalty on a data controller of up to £500,000.
- 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.