ICO gunning for rogue phone firms

The Information Commissioner’s Office has defended its failure to clamp down on rogue telemarketing firms, saying they are firmly in its sights, following claims of a surge in the number of businesses flagrantly flouting the TPS.
A Panorama programme – due to be broadcast tonight on BBC One – finds that despite thousands of complaints from the public being lodged with the ICO each month, there have not been any fines imposed on offending companies for at least 18 months.
And DMA head of operations Mike Lordan conceded that some companies were ignoring the rules.
He said: “Companies are not abiding by legislation and we should be seeing enforcement against those companies who are persistently breaching legislation.” Lordan has urged the ICO to take tough action. He added: “If the ICO is seen to fine some of these people quite heavily, we feel it will then stop a lot of other people breaching the regulations.”
Meanwhile Richard Lloyd from Which? also told the programme: “Even if you have signed up to the TPS now, it won’t make a jot of difference to those companies that are buying and selling that information you gave to that website maybe years ago.” Panorama says the UK public receives up to 3 billion marketing calls a year.
But speaking on BBC Breakfast, ICO director of operations Simon Entwisle defended the regulator’s actions, stressing that it only received adequate powers at the beginning of the year.
He added: “Investigations are not simple. They are complicated procedures. We have to track a significant number of calls – at least in the hundreds – for it to lead to a monetary penalty.”
Entwisle said that the regulator introduced a scheme in March to make it easier for members of the public to complain about cold-calls, and has received more than 12,000 complaints since then.
He also claimed that the ICO was actively pursuing up to 20 rogue firms, with at least two businesses facing fines “in the not too distant future”, but it was crucial to build solid evidence. “The last thing we want is to issue a fine and then for a company to successfully challenge the ruling and we have to pay it back.”
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