Companies which persist in making cold calls to consumers without running their files against the Telephone Preference Service have been issued a new stark warning of “robust action” following fines totalling £480,000 being levied against four businesses.
Chameleon Marketing from Leeds; Rancom Security based in Sutton Coldfield; Repair & Assure from Redhill; and Solar Style Solutions in Stockton on Tees were found to have made 2.4 million illegal calls between them, resulting in over 250 complaints to the Information Commissioner’s Office and the TPS.
An ICO investigation found that between March 17 and July 2 2019, Chameleon Marketing made 617,323 direct marketing calls to people registered with the TPS to promote boiler replacements, sparking 52 complaints from the public. One miffed consumer said: “Constantly ringing. I have 4-6 calls a day off this number. Even the weekend. They even ring straight back when I cancel the call.”
The probe found Chameleon Marketing did not conduct any due diligence on its data supplier and the consents it was relying on were insufficient. The ICO has fined the business £100,000.
Meanwhile, the ICO and TPS received 94 complaints about Rancom Security for calls it made between June 1 2017 31 May 31 2018. Of the 851,392 calls made 565,344 were to TPS registered users.
One member of the public said: “I was very annoyed that someone was targeting my mother with lies in the hope she would buy something from them. She told them the first time that she wasn’t interested but they phoned twice more. She is anxious about them phoning again.”
During this investigation, RSL was inconsistent with its evidence, was not able to show any due diligence it had conducted and could not provide any evidence of a TPS licence. The ICO has fined RSL £110,000.
Repair & Assure was responsible for making 1,103,292 nuisance calls between January 2 and June 11 2019. The ICO and TPS received 88 complaints about the calls, which all related to washing machine warranties.
One recipient fumed: “Caller enquired about Hotpoint washing machine that I do not own. I own a Zanussi. Prior to any sales pitch, I had informed the caller that he was breaking the rules regarding restricted numbers and sales calls. He said he was not. I informed him that my number is on the TPS service and that by calling he was indeed breaching the law regarding this. He again attempted to continue the call at which point I put the phone down on him.”
Repair & Assure initially advised the ICO that its “opt in” data was obtained from 12 third party suppliers and it did not screen against the TPS register. It was subsequently found that all the data was collected via telephone marketing surveys. The ICO has fined RAL £180,000 and issued it with an enforcement notice ordering it to stop making marketing calls within 30 days.
Finally, the regulator found that between January 1 and April 29 2019, Solar Style Solutions made 188,665 calls, of which 126,019 were to TPS registered users and generated 29 complaints.
One of those who was targeted moaned: “It is primarily a disruption rushing to the phone only to discover it is an unsolicited call, and then annoying to discover that no matter how many times you ask to be removed from a list (and promises made to do so) that the calls keep coming. It annoys me that they have our number. Where did they get it, who sold it to them?”
The ICO found a level of naivety on the part of Solar Style Solutions, that it was relying on “good faith” alone with its purchased data. The ICO has fined the firm £90,000.
The four fines follow last year’s concerns that the ICO was seemingly sidelining its investigations into breaches of the Privacy & Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) that govern electronic marketing and nuisance calls. In the six months from September 2019 until February 2020, the ICO did not make a single PECR ruling, despite tens of thousands of complaints. However, since then it has resumed enforcement action.
Even so, the latest fines could not be more timely, with Commissioner Elizabeth Denham appearing in front of MPs this week, amid claims the regulator has not been tough enough, especially during the Covid outbreak.
ICO head of investigations Andy Curry said:“Nuisance calls are an invasion of people’s privacy that can cause great distress and worry, particularly where people have taken steps to protect themselves by signing up to the TPS. We will always take robust action against companies who we find are ignoring the law in pursuit of their own gain.
“Business owners operating in this field have a duty to both familiarise themselves with and comply with the law. Attempting to rely on ignorance or naivety or trying to pass the buck to suppliers will never be a valid defence.
“The law is simple and clear, businesses must not call numbers that are registered with the TPS unless they have valid consent to do so. The consequences for those that choose to flout the law strike at a company’s reputation, and balance sheet with fines and where necessary enforcement notices ordering firms to stop making calls.”
“We were able to bring these four companies to account with the help of the public who took the time to complain to the TPS and us. We encourage anybody to sign up to the free TPS service and report any subsequent unwanted calls they receive.”
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