Brands which breach the Information Commissioner’s Office direct marketing guidance could end up being dragged through the courts after the Government confirmed plans to change the law to give the rules statutory recognition.
The measure, included in the Queen’s Speech, was first mooted by Baroness Neville Rolfe at a recent DMA Data Protection Conference and would need legislative change, as well as a full consultation before going before Parliament for the full approval.
The move follows the update of ICO DM guidance in March, with a greater focus on charity fundraising as well as more direction around third-party consent.
Late last year, ministers stopped short of introducing statutory measures for fundraising activity, although obviously they will now be covered by the change anyway.
However, details are sketchy at best, and even the ICO does not know how it will pan out. All the Government has said so far is that it will offer “protection for consumers from spam email and nuisance calls by ensuring consent is obtained for direct marketing, and that the Information Commissioner is empowered to impose fines on those who break the rules.”
The ICO currently has the power to fine firms up to £500,000 for breaches of the Privacy & Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR), although cannot take miscreants to court. However, it can take criminal action against those who flout the Data Protection Act.
Information Commissioner Christopher Graham said: “Strengthening the rules around direct marketing by putting our guidance on a statutory footing will help us fight the nuisance of unwanted calls and give our enforcement action extra bite.
“Companies that flout the rules must be brought to book and any change that empowers us to do that even more effectively is to be welcomed. We look forward to seeing more detail about how this would work in practice.”
In the last 12 months the ICO issued fines totalling £2m for nuisance calls and texts, and says there are more in the pipeline. Earlier this week the regulator insisted it will do everything it can to ensure rogue companies pay their fines after revealing it is still actively chasing nine of out the 20 fines it has issued since last April.
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