29th December 2015
Companies making nuisance calls and texts have been warned to expect more fines in 2016 after a year in which over a million pounds in penalties have been handed out.
The Information Commissioner’s Office today revealed it fined nuisance callers and marketeers a total of £1,135,000 in 2015 and warned that it has the same sum in the pipeline for early next year.
Ironically, the fines included £295,000 of fines for companies offering call blocking or nuisance call prevention services.
On top of this, it handed out a £80,000 fine to a PPI claims firm that sent 1.3m text messages.
It dealt out a £200,000 fine to a solar panels company that made six million nuisance calls.
A pharmacy company that sold customer details to postal marketing companies was fined £130,000.
It levied £575,000 in fines for nuisance calls (Direct Assist Ltd, Point One Marketing Ltd, Cold Call Elimination Ltd, Home Energy & Lifestyle Management Ltd (HELM), Nuisance Call Blocker Ltd, Telecom Protection Service Ltd).
Meanwhile, it fined Telegraph Media Group £30,000 in December for sending a marketing email urging readers to vote Conservative, which went against the newspaper’s permissions for this subscriber base.The ICO received around 170,000 concerns in 2015 from people who’ve received nuisance calls and texts, a similar number to the previous year (175,330).
PPI claims prompted the most complaints, followed by accident claims. Areas identified as emerging sectors for nuisance calls and texts included call blocking services, oven cleaning services and industrial hearing injury claims.
Andy Curry, ICO enforcement group manager, says: “Nuisance marketing calls frustrate people. The law is clear around what is allowed, and we’ve been clear that we will fine companies who don’t follow the law. That will continue in 2016. We’ve got 90 ongoing investigations, and a million pounds worth of fines in the pipeline.”
Testimonies from people whose elderly relatives have received nuisance calls from the companies listed reveal the distress that can be caused.
With regard to Cold Call Elimination, a complainant said: “This company has ‘conned’ my mother out of £84.99 for an unnecessary service … my parents are 87 and 86 respectively, my father is suffering from dementia.”
Another said: “I am looking after my elderly mother who has terminal cancer. She initially answered and I could see I needed to intervene as I could hear the sales guy not giving up. I took the phone and asked him who he was and what he wanted. He got quite annoyed that I had intervened and I told him we were not interested.”
Complaints about Point One Marketing were similar. One complainant said: “Very upset and angry that my mum, who has dementia, was talked into giving credit card details when it would have been obvious to the caller that she had dementia.
“This caused my mum distress because I had to explain why her debit card had to be cancelled and what she had done. This has caused both of us great distress.
“Had I not checked her call log and … the number that had called her I would not have known it had happened at all.”
Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd says: “Millions of people are still being plagued with nuisance calls so it’s good to see more firms being fined for flouting the rules. However we also need to see further action including much tougher penalties for senior executives of companies making unlawful calls including board directors being held personally accountable.”