The Information Commissioner’s Office may have let the adtech industry off the hook for the foreseeable future, but rogue claims management firms are still getting nailed, with a Bury-based business the latest to come a cropper for a barrage of so-called nuisance calls.
Reliance Advisory was set up in 2015 by Adam Crowley and Gary Price, and, it seems, all was going swimmingly until the beginning of 2019 when the firm unleashed a barrage of 15.1 million calls to try to convince consumers to make a claim, mainly in relation to mis-sold PPI.
The activity sparked 85 complaints to the ICO from members of the public about the persistent calls they were receiving, multiple times a day. A number noted the aggressive and rude nature of the callers and highlighted the distress this was causing them.
One complainant said: “They call when my baby is asleep and wake her up. They disrupt my day. My husband is in the military and can rarely call me, when they call, I think it’s him and then I’m disappointed it’s them again.”
Another added: “Asking about PPI, she said has been given information about my PPI (not true). I told her she shouldn’t be calling, and she became very rude. I told her that I hadn’t given permission for PPI calls and it was illegal, she became rude and loud.”
The ICO then launched an investigation that uncovered the majority of the calls, of which 1.1 million connected, were made to people who had not consented to receive them.
In fact, where Reliance Advisory did try to provide evidence of consent, for data that it had purchased in the previous 30 days, the consent was found to have not been freely given, specific or informed.
The law banning unsolicited calls for direct marketing purposes in relation to claims management services came into force on 8 September 2018. It is contained in regulation 21A of the Privacy & Electronic Communications Regulations 2003 (PECR).
The company insisted it was not aware of its responsibilities under the law, an excuse which carried little truck with the ICO, who slapped them with a £250,000 fine.
ICO head of investigations Andy Curry said: “Nuisance calls continue to be a matter of great distress, annoyance and significant concern for the public and we will continue to find and take action against the worst offenders.
“The law exists for a reason, and that is to protect people from this high degree of intrusion into their private lives. Businesses must respect the law and the onus is on them to be aware of their responsibilities. Pleading ignorance of the rules, as was put forward in this case, will never be a valid argument.
“We encourage members of the public to report nuisance calls, texts and emails to us.”
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