The Information Commissioner’s Office continues to big up its battle against so-called nuisance callers with yet another round of fines, although the war is far from over with seemingly no let up in the number of rogue firms willing to break the law to make money.
This latest action is part of a wider crackdown to tackle rogue companies using pressurised sales techniques to sell insurance for white goods, such as washing machines and fridges, and other household appliances, including TVs.
The five guilty companies – SGS Home Protect, Cover Appliance, F12 Management, House Hold Appliance 247 and RHAP – have been slapped with fines totalling £590,000 for collectively making 1.9 million illegal calls.
The fines resulted from detailed investigations by the ICO, assisted by intelligence from National Trading Standards.
And, according to the regulator, it has now issued monetary penalties totalling £1.45m since October 2021 to 16 companies for making illegal and unwanted marketing calls to people who have registered with the Telephone Preference Service.
ICO head of investigations Andy Curry said: “We’ve heard harrowing stories of people being hounded with these nuisance calls, and feeling forced into handing over bank details for unwanted and unnecessary insurance. We’re working to protect people who are being deliberately targeted because they’re seen as easy pickings by unscrupulous cold callers.”
Under existing legislation, breaches of the law which govern telemarketing and email marketing – so-called PECR – carry a maximum penalty of £500,000. This figure will increase to up to £17.5m or 4% of annual global turnover if and when the Government’s data reforms come into law.
The jury is still out whether this will stop the barrage of unwanted calls as most of the fines the ICO issues against rogue companies go unpaid.
Many in the industry argue that increasing the penalties is simply Government posturing – many calls come from overseas operations which are outside UK jurisdiction, while in the UK most firms are tiny operations that can either operate under the radar or shut up shop and start up somewhere else.
To combat this, PECR was overhauled in 2018 to make directors personally liable for fines of up to £500,000 yet there has not been a single case to date.
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Will tougher fines bring victory in nuisance call war?