Pre-paid funeral service Avalon Direct has dug itself into a large hole after being fined £80,000 for making unlawful marketing calls to people who had made it explicitly clear they did not want to receive them.
The Information Commissioner’s Office launched an investigation after the Daily Mail had reported allegations of illegal practices at a call centre in Cheshire, run by a company which at the time was called Plan My Funeral Avalon.
While the Mail accused the company of using underhand tactics to flog its services, the ICO investigation revealed the business – which shortly afterwards changed its name to Avalon Direct – had made almost 52,000 calls to people who were registered with the Telephone Preference Service between March 1 and November 20 2017.
Avalon said it had purchased numbers from a third-party lead provider, but had no specific consent to call people registered on the TPS. It failed to carry out proper due diligence or check the numbers against the TPS register.
The ICO’s investigation into Avalon found two of the company’s directors at the time of the contravention – who Decision Marketing can name as Daniel Harvey Rodgers and Adam David Bowers – had previously been involved in an unconnected ICO investigation and that the company involved in that case, TFLI had been fined £80,000 in January 2018 for sending over 1.19 million spam texts.
Rodgers and Bowers were also the directors of the lead generation company used by Avalon for the data collection in this current case, so, as the ICO points out, they would have been fully aware of their legal obligations surrounding direct marketing, consent and the TPS register. Both directors resigned from Avalon on May 15 2018, however, they continue to be directors of TFLI.
In addition to the fine, Avalon has also been served with an Enforcement Notice ordering it to improve its practices.
ICO enforcement group manager Andy Curry said: “The funeral plan industry has been on our radar for a while and it is fair to say the sector as a whole has had some issues in terms of complying with the law. That’s not always reflected in volumes of complaints, however, because the very nature of this particular sector means the people being targeted for funeral plan sales may be older, potentially more vulnerable and may not be as technologically savvy or as active online.
“We would ask people to speak to their older relatives, neighbours or friends and make sure they are registered with the TPS. If they have still been getting nuisance calls, they can help report these calls to us as this helps us build up intelligence on companies and sectors where we need to take action.”
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