Cold Calling? The ICO has your number with record fines
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has handed a £90,000 fine to a boiler company for persistent nuisance calling and targeting vulnerable individuals.
Kwik Fix Plumbers Limited (Kwik Fix) are the latest company to be reprimanded with a record fine for practices described as ‘despicable’ and ‘disgraceful’ by the ICO’s head of enforcement. The news came only a week after an Information Rights Tribunal dismissed an appeal by another company, Amber UPVC Fabrications Limited (Amber), after they too were fined heavily for flouting direct marketing regulations.
A telephone call which is made for direct marketing is against the law, when it is made to a telephone subscriber who is registered with the Telephone Preference Service as not wishing to receive such calls.
Kwik Fix was discovered to be making such calls to hundreds of individuals, including a number of people suffering from Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The actions have drawn universal criticism, acutely articulated by George McNamara, the Alzheimer’s Society’s Head of Public Policy and Public Affairs when he commented that, ‘Purposefully targeting customers based on their vulnerability is not the kind of practice we expect and must be immediately stamped out.’
In this regard, the strong message sent by the ICO will provide Mr McNamara, and the Kwik Fix victims, with a measure of comfort this Christmas that cold calling could be costly if it isn’t conducted appropriately.
Amber discovered this in April this year when they were fined £50,000 for their failure to comply with the rules on unsolicited direct marketing calls under the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003.
Between the months of May 2011 and April 2013 Amber made nearly four million telephone calls, of which roughly 80-90% were direct marketing calls. Amber subsequently appealed the monetary penalty issued by the ICO, a penalty which has now been upheld.
The Tribunal dismissed appellant’s evidence as fundamentally lacking in relevance and detail before handing down its verdict that ‘the penalty was appropriate (or, indeed, lenient) in the circumstances, and the appellant has no legitimate complaint concerning its size’.
The Amber decision, delivered last week, is, to date, the most extensive analysis of the monetary penalty process. Both it, and the Kwik Fix case, add to a number of direct marketing monetary penalties that have been issued by the ICO in 2014, with no sign of any let up by the ICO in his pursuit of direct marketers, this appeal provides further evidence of the fact that companies must ensure their compliance with the Regulations and the Data Protection Act and that it is worthwhile for consumers to make a complaint.
MacRoberts LLP can provide advice and training on all aspects of the Data Protection Act and compliance with the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003.