A telemarketing company which is part of the Government-backed green energy scheme has been hit with a record £200,000 fine for a reckless campaign of 6 million automated nuisance calls which made many consumers’ lives a misery.
Glasgow-based Home Energy & Lifestyle Management (HELM) made the calls as part of a major campaign offering “free” solar panels, even though it admitted it did not even know what the rules were.
An organisation must have people’s permission, which specifically names the company concerned, in order to make automated calls, but the regulator found this was not the case. In just over two months, from October to December 2014, the Information Commissioner’s Office received 242 complaints.
One complainant stated they were waiting for news of a terminally ill family member and could not ignore the phone, and felt powerless against the automated calls. Another talked of the calls bringing back memories of the morning phone call when their young grandchild had passed away. A third complainant said they felt like their home had been invaded as the answer machine filled up with calls from the company.
The calls were often repeated and it was not always possible to connect to a person or to stop the calls by pressing an option button. Bosses at HELM have pledged to appeal against the decision, claiming a “reputable” third-party software firm it had hired was responsible for the issue.
ICO head of enforcement Steve Eckersley said that the company’s ignorance of the law was “beyond belief”.
He added: [HELM] didn’t even bother to find out what the rules were and its badly thought out marketing campaign made people’s lives a misery. The monetary penalty is for a significant amount because of the clear failings of the company, and the number of people affected by its deliberate and unlawful campaign.
“It should be a warning to other companies to think before they launch into a campaign. Direct marketing campaigns can be run within the law with a little thought and there’s plenty of advice available to companies in the ICO’s website.”
The biggest fine the ICO has issued was a £440,000 penalty issued to the directors of Tetrus Telecom for a spam text campaign. However, this was overturned on appeal. Meanwhile two companies owned by BBC TV Call Centre boss Nev Wilshire – Nationwide Energy Services and Claim You Gain – were hit by a total fine of £225,000 in June 2013.
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