Legislation which could lead to the disqualification of rogue telemarketing company directors like Tony Abbott and Nev Wilshire – whose businesses have been found guilty of riding roughshod over unsolicited marketing laws – has moved a step closer.
The Unsolicited Marketing Communications (Company Directors) Bill, proposed by SNP MP Patricia Gibson, aims to give the Information Commissioner’s Office new powers to make directors of rogue firms personally responsible for fines.
According to a recent Which? report, only four of the 22 fines issued by the ICO since last year’s reforms have actually been paid. The DMA is calling for custodial sentences for serial offenders.
The issue was first highlighted in May, when a Daily Telegraph investigation revealed that 14 out of the then 20 companies penalised have either gone bust or declared themselves insolvent to avoid the fine.
One such business was Reactiv Media, the Yorkshire direct marketing firm which was last year booted out of the DMA and fined £75,000 over nuisance calls.
Owner Tony Abbott placed the company in liquidation in May, he then set up a new company, called Flip It Marketing in September, according to a filing at Companies House.
Meanwhile Nev Wilshire, controversial star of the BBC series The Call Centre, will also no doubt be keeping a close eye on developments.
In June 2013, two of his firms – Nationwide Energy Services and We Claim You Gain – were fined a total of £225,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office for making nuisance marketing calls. But both companies were shut down when parent business Save Britain Money Ltd based in Swansea went bust.
Neither man has acted illegally, however; although hardly sound business practice, “phoenixing” is perfectly legal.
But speaking in the Commons, Gibson said the scourge of nuisance calls was not only affecting consumers, it is also hitting legitimate businesses hard.
She added: “It is time that named company directors of the companies that are responsible for nuisance calls are held to account instead of fines for breaches in the law being imposed on companies that then close down and are reopened under a different name, thus allowing fines for breaches of the law to go unpaid.
“Technological advances mean that those who make nuisance calls can churn out automated calls at the rate of millions each day. This Bill would improve life for all of us. I believe that it would be welcomed by legitimate businesses, which face a crisis in consumer confidence, as rogue businesses undermine the entire relationship between legitimate business and consumers.”
The Bill was voted through for its second reading on November 18.
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