Information Commissioner Christopher Graham has urged consumers to “Carry On Complaining” after the Government finally opened its consultation on lowering the threshold of complaints for nuisance calls and texts.
The Department for Culture, Media & Sport opened the consultation at the weekend, led by culture secretary Sajid Javid. It was originally hoped the laws would be in place by Christmas, but June now looks a more viable option.
It stated: “This consultation seeks views on lowering the legal threshold before firms responsible for nuisance calls and texts can be hit with fines of up to £500,000. The law currently requires the ICO to prove a company caused ‘substantial damage or substantial distress’ by their conduct. The Government wants to reduce this to causing ‘annoyance, inconvenience or anxiety’.
In response, Graham said: “It’s a myth that nuisance calls are all from a handful of bad guys. In September, the Telephone Preference Service received over 2,000 complaints about nuisance calls. Of those, 38 companies featured in more than ten complaints. That suggests they’re probably breaking the law, but not in a way serious enough for the ICO to be able to fine them. The law change proposed would change that, and I think we’d see a lot of these companies cleaning up their act.”
But he stressed the need for people to continue to register their complaints. “We received 161,720 concerns about nuisance calls and texts last year – that’s more than twice the number of people who filled the World Cup final stadium this summer.
“That’s a lot of people who want to see us take action, and their complaints have meant we’ve been able to raid offices and call centres, prosecute people and issue fines. But we want to do more. The law changes proposed would help us do that, but we still need people to report the companies breaking the rules.”
Graham is also confident lowering the threshold will tackle the problem once and for all. “This change means we could now target those many companies sending unwanted messages – and we think consumers would see a definite drop off in the total number of spam calls and texts.”
Mike Lordan, director of external affairs at the DMA, said: “It’s good news for the telemarketing industry that DCMS has now launched its long-promised consultation on nuisance calls and spam text. The recent surge in complaints has been driven in the main by rogue companies making PPI and accident claims calls. Lowering the burden of proof will be an important tool in protecting the telemarketing industry and consumers from the scourge of nuisance calls.”
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