The Information Commissioner’s Office claims it is winning the battle against rogue telemarketing calls and texts, hailing the £250,000 in fines it has dished out in recent weeks as “huge progress” against the menace.
In a blog post, director of operations Simon Entwisle points out the regulator has now issued nearly £850,000 in monetary penalties to miscreants, and said that it has had over 200,000 pieces of evidence provided through its online reporting tool.
So far it has fined Tameside Energy Services £45,000, the two companies behind the BBC3 show The Call Centre £225,000, DM Design £90,000, and the owners of Tetrus Telecoms £440,000, totalling £845,000.
Entwisle added: “The penalties send out a clear message to other companies involved in cold calls or spam text messages that the rules must be followed. They also attract media headlines, and this in turn prompts more people to report their concerns to us.
“We’re also working with Department for Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS), the Government department responsible for overseeing the rules around cold calls and spam text messages, around a possible change to the law. The law currently requires us to prove that calls or texts are causing substantial harm or substantial distress before we can issue a penalty. We’ve provided a business case asking the government to reduce the level of harm, so we need to simply prove annoyance or nuisance before acting.”
It is understood that the ICO wants to be able to take action over just a handful of complaints rather than the current stipulation of widespread abuse, which requires months of work to build up a dossier. It has revealed it is working with Ofcom on a joint action plan, and will publish a general update on progress in early 2014. The Telephone Preference Service, run by the DMA, is also being investigated, after claims that people who have signed up get more cold calls than those who have not. The matter is also being probed by MPs.
He added: “Five companies are currently in line for penalties after making automated marketing calls to individuals who have not previously provided their consent, with a further two set to receive penalties after making live marketing calls to individuals who are registered with the TPS, or who have directly opted-out.”
Entwisle concluded: “Plenty of progress then, but plenty of work still to be done. The next six months promise to be very significant in the fight to stop nuisance calls and texts.”
Mike Lordan, head of operations at the DMA, said: “We welcome recent moves by the ICO and Ofcom that will improve enforcement against rogue companies and lower the threshold necessary for taking action. The regulators already have the powers they need to deal with companies that flout the law; they will now coordinate their efforts better to protect consumers and the legitimate telemarketing and mobile marketing industries alike.”
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