Keurboom Communications director Gregory Rudd – whose company has just been fined a record £400,000 for making nearly 100 million nuisance calls – has so far got off virtually scot-free, despite Government assurances that new laws will make directors personally liable for breaches of telemarketing legislation.
With his company already joining the long list of firms which have gone bust to avoid paying up, the Government has been accused of dragging its feet over introducing the new laws.
In October last year, the Minister of State for Digital & Culture Matt Hancock pledged to introduce legislation “in early spring” that would see directors face fines of up to £500,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office. But the plans have yet to see the light of day.
One industry source said: “The Government made a great play of this new crackdown but nothing has happened. How long will directors be allowed to ride roughshod over the ICO?”
The Keurboom fine followed over 1,000 complaints about automated calls. The calls, made over an 18-month period, related to a wide range of subjects including road traffic accident claims and PPI compensation. Some people received repeat calls, sometimes on the same day and during unsociable hours. The company also hid its identity, making it harder for people to complain.
Companies can only make automated marketing calls to people if they have their specific consent. Keurboom did not have consent, so was in breach of the law.
During the ICO investigation, the regulator issued seven information notices ordering to provide information. When it failed to comply, Keurboom was prosecuted at Luton Magistrates’ Court in April 2016. The firm was fined just over £2,000, while its director Gregory Rudd was fined just over £1,500. And, as it stands, that is all that has been paid.
The issue of firms going bust to avoid ICO fines was first highlighted in May last year, when a Daily Telegraph investigation revealed that 14 out of the then 20 companies penalised had gone into liquidation.
In recent weeks, Media Tactics, which was fined £270,000 by the ICO in March for making 22 million nuisance calls to people across the country, has also closed.
According to a recent Which? report, only four of the 22 fines issued by the ICO since 2015’s reforms have actually been paid.
The ICO insists it is committed to recovering the Keurboom fine by working with the liquidator and insolvency practitioners.
ICO head of enforcement Steve Eckerlsey said: “Keurboom showed scant regard for the rules, causing upset and distress to people unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end of one its 100 million calls.
“The unprecedented scale of its campaign and Keurboom’s failure to co-operate with our investigation has resulted in the largest fine issued by the Information Commissioner for nuisance calls.
“These calls have now stopped – as has Keurboom – but our work has not. We’ll continue to track down companies that blight people’s lives with nuisance calls, texts and emails.”
Mike Lordan, director of external affairs at the DMA, added: “We applaud the work of the ICO against rogue marketers who do nothing for consumers and give the legitimate industry a bad name. We hope that in the future rogue marketers will face the real threat of prison when abusing consumers in this way, which will be an effective deterrent.”
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