Company director Jonathon De Sousa, whose business Xternal Property Renovations was found to have bombarded more than 110,000 people with illegal calls in just three months back in 2015, has finally got his comeuppance after being barred from holding a directorship for five years.
From its incorporation in August 2015, the company relied heavily on cold-calling members of the public to generate business. However, Xternal Property Renovations failed to run these numbers through the Telephone Preference Service to screen out those who had opted out of such calls.
And within three months of opening, the firm had made over 110,000 calls to people registered with the TPS, triggering 133 complaints to the Information Commissioners Office.
In the ICO’s ensuing investigation, the maintenance company failed to provide the regulator with a single piece of evidence that it had acted correctly and, in January 2017, the ICO informed Xternal Property Renovations that it was going to fine the firm £80,000.
But, before the penalty could be levied, De Sousa placed the company into Creditors Voluntary Liquidation. An Insolvency Service investigation into De Sousa’s conduct following the liquidation revealed that Xternal Property Renovations had also not paid £250,000 to HMRC.
On July 30 2019, the Secretary of State accepted a five-year disqualification undertaking from De Sousa after he did not dispute that he had caused his company to fail to comply with the Privacy & Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) and failed to pay the appropriate levels of tax.
Effective from August 20 2019, he is prohibited from being involved in the formation, management, or promotion of a company without permission from the court.
Insolvency Service chief investigator Anthea Simpson said: “It is not acceptable for companies to harass members of the public with unwanted marketing calls, and we will continue to work with the ICO to curtail the activities of unscrupulous directors.
“Directors who try to evade the consequences of their actions by putting their company into liquidation should expect to be investigated, which could lead to them being disqualified from being a company director again for a number of years.”
ICO investigations group manager David Clancy added: “By working closely with the Insolvency Service we have been successful in stopping the illegal activities of company directors like Jonathon De Sousa, who cause upset and distress to millions of people who are on the receiving end of nuisance marketing calls.”
De Souza is the 17th member of the rogues gallery of directors who have been disqualified for a total of 112½ years for PECR offences; they include Shaun Harkin of Easyleads, six years; Keith Hancock of Lad Media, four years; and Aaron Stalberg, Lead Experts, six years. Reactiv Media call centre boss Tony Abbott was the first to be disqualified after being barred for 12 years in January 2018.
New laws came into force in December last year in an amendment to PECR, giving the ICO extra powers to make directors of rogue calls firms personally liable for fines of up to £500,000.
The ICO had long been pushing for a change in the law due to the fact that so many company directors had swerved paying fines by shutting up shop and starting again under a different name.
These powers have yet to used, however.
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