Consumers are flooding to the ICO helpline at a rate of 4,330 a week as public awareness of data protection issues soars, according to the ICO Annual Report published this week.
The helpline got a total of 225,138 calls last year, while the number of complaints it has received about telemarketing and SMS reached 155,425 – nearly 3,000 a week.
Meanwhile there has been a 45% rise in the number of cases probed by the civil enforcement team.
The top reason for consumer complaints was subject access – people wanting to know where companies got their data from – on 47%, followed by disclosure of data on 19%, inaccurate data 16%, general business 9% and security 6%. Complaints by sector saw lenders lead the pack on 17%, followed by local government 11%, health 9%, policing and criminal records 5% and telecoms 4%. Just 2% of gripes were about the Internet.
The ICO issued 23 fines in the past 12 months, more than double the previous year, although the £2.6m total is only slightly up on last year.
Information Commissioner Christopher Graham (pictured) said: “While formal enforcement action is only part of what we do, the ICO’s ability to command attention depends on our credibility as a watchdog with teeth.
Our reputation as a regulator to be respected was underlined as we imposed civil monetary penalties of over £2.6m. Our enforcement actions against the generators of spam texts and nuisance phone calls was aided by an easy to use reporting tool on the ICO website which gathered more than 155,000 consumer tip offs over the year. We successfully resisted legal challenges to our use of our ‘big stick’ power.”
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