The scourge of so-called nuisance calls is still alive and kicking, with an analysis of complaints made to the Information Commissioner’s Office suggesting the problem has been swept under the carpet and the authorities have given up the ghost on hunting down the rogue firms.
According to ICO figures, compiled by Decision Marketing, in the first ten months of the regulator’s financial year (from April 2019 to January 2020), there have been 101,437 complaints under the Privacy & Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR). Judging by previous years, this could rise by an additional 20,000 in the final two months.
However, the ICO has so far issued just six fines over the period, totalling £700,000, with the largest penalties going to Making it Easy (£160,000) and Superior Style Home Improvements (£150,000).
This is a dramatic reduction in enforcement action compared to the previous two years, despite similar levels of consumer complaints.
During 2018-19, the regulator received 138,368 PECR gripes, the vast majority over nuisance calls and texts. The ICO issued 23 monetary penalties in the period, totalling £2,053,000. However, as Decision Marketing has previously reported, half of these fines remain unpaid.
During 2017/18, the ICO received fewer PECR complaints (109,481) but issued far more fines, 26 totalling £3,280,000. The biggest fine of the period was for Keurboom Communications, which was whacked with a £400,000 penalty for nearly 100 million nuisance calls. But, like many, the firm’s sole director, Gregory Rudd, liquidated the business to avoid coughing up.
At the time, Parliament was under huge pressure to pass new laws which would rid the UK of the nuisance call issue. The DMA had been demanding action for years and the ICO soon backed its fight.
However, the Cambridge Analytica scandal, GDPR and the privacy debate have pushed nuisance calls way down the political agenda, even though it would appear the issue has not gone away.
One industry source said: “The Government promised to tackle nuisance calls and, from the outside at least, it seems to have done so. However, there are still as many complaints as there were five years ago at the height of the concerns, which would suggest that the problem has simply been brushed under the carpet.
“With adtech, GDPR, data breaches and data ethics keeping the ICO ‘double busy’, it seems that acting on PECR complaints has gone way down its list of priorities. Meanwhile, the rogues simply carry on regardless.”
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