Georgia, oh Georgia: Debt collectors hunt cold call rogue

cold calls 1The Information Commissioner’s Office is attempting to silence those who have slammed its record in getting monetary penalties paid by launching debt collection action against a company – and its sole director – on the same day as announcing it has issued a fine.

The firm concerned, Pownall Marketing Limited (PML) and director Georgia Dunford, came to the attention of the ICO when it began receiving complaints about nuisance marketing calls, relating to claims management services.

The ICO’s investigation found that 365,369 calls had been made between January 1 and May 28 last year to people who had not consented to receive them. In response, PML claimed it acted as a “marketing agent” for another unnamed company, which was later discovered to be an Indian firm based in Ghaziabad. It supplied the data that PML would use in its campaigns but PML could not prove that this information had been gathered legally.

The company, which is not registered with the FCA for the purposes of carrying out regulated activities, also used misleading and underhand tactics when making the calls, with call agents claiming to be from other companies.

The law banning unsolicited calls for direct marketing purposes in relation to claims management services came into force in September 2018, with an amendment to the Privacy & Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR). The ICO ruled this was a serious contravention of the law and slapped PML with a £250,000 fine.

However, Dunford has tried every trick in the book to avoid payment and the ICO says its Financial Recovery Unit has already blocked her application to strike off PML from the Companies House register three times.

If the company fails to pay the penalty then the FRU will take what it calls “appropriate action to recover the debt”, which may involve petitioning for the winding up of the company and exercising the ICO’s full rights as a creditor in any insolvency.

ICO head of investigations Andy Curry said: “Despite this company’s attempt to formally cease trading, we continued with our enforcement action due to the seriousness of the contraventions, and because we can take further action against the director.

“Nuisance calls are both an annoyance and an intrusion into people’s daily lives and we will always seek to find a way to bring businesses and their owners operating with a blatant disregard of the law to account.”

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