The Government’s latest crackdown on so-called nuisance calls – which will see Brits have to opt in to receive cold calls selling personal injury claims or payment protection insurance – “smacks of a PR exercise” which will do little to tackle the problem, according to many working in the industry.
The legislation, which came into force late last week, amends the Privacy & Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR), and allows the Information Commissioner’s Office to issue fines of up £500,000 to companies that break the rules.
Minister for Digital Margot James said: “We are one step closer to ending the menace of nuisance calls. Our new laws mean people will now have to give consent to receive calls and have the power to choose where they seek compensation for personal injury claims or mis sold payment protection insurance. This is a big boost for the ICO and will help them crack down on the cold call sharks.”
However, many in the industry have long feared that a ban will have the opposite effect because it will move compliant users of outbound calling out of the way to leave the field clear for rogues – which change numbers all the time – to expand their own activities.
One industry insider said: “While laudable, this will not do much to tackle the issue as most rogue companies do not use caller line identification and many are automated calls anyway, so for most consumers it is virtually impossible to track down who has called them.”
According to the latest ICO figures, there were nearly 6,000 automated call concerns reported to the regulator in July 2018.
Another added: “I doubt it will put many companies off. Most know they are breaking the law anyway by not checking the Telephone Preference Service, and even when they get caught, they rarely pay the fines.”
Last month, the Government was urged to rush through legislation to make directors of rogue telemarketing firms personally liable for fines of up to £500,000 following the end of its consultation on the issue.
Decision Marketing launched its own “Call Time on Rogue Marketers” campaign in February after a Freedom of Information request found that of the 40 companies which had received PECR penalties between 2015 and January 2018, 27 had either gone into liquidation to avoid the fine or been brought down by other creditors.
Since then, five directors of telemarketing firms – Shaun Harkin of Easyleads, Allan Brown and Kenneth Haswell of Nevis Home Improvements, Leah Masters of Cold Call Elimination and Tony Abbott of Reactiv Media – have been barred for a total of 30 years.
A third industry source said: “Only when company directors are made personally liable for fines will we see a reduction. Even then, it doesn’t affect firms which call from overseas. This smacks of a PR exercise.”
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