Covid-19 might be wreaking havoc with all areas of business but it seems to have also put the wind up marketing rogues, with new figures revealing so-called nuisance calls have nosedived by over three-fifths during lockdown.
According to statistics released by the Information Commissioner’s Office, in March, April and May 2020 there were a total of 13,280 complaints about unwanted calls, compared to 36,554 during the same period in 2019, representing a 63.4% decline. In fact, April 2020’s figure of 2,660 is one of the lowest ever recorded.
At the start of the outbreak, the Financial Conduct Authority put protecting consumers from scammers at the top of its agenda. The regulator pinpointed retail investments, insurance policies, pensions transfers and high-return opportunities, as ripe areas for scammers and said it would crack down on firms who see “see these times as an opportunity for poor behaviour”.
There were also warnings that claims management firms – the old school nuisance callers – were ramping up their activities by contacting customers about compensation for holidays, weddings, birthday parties and other key celebrations which had been cancelled due to the pandemic.
However, the predicted deluge of scam calls has simply not materialised – at least not yet anyway – with not a single coronavirus-related complaint to the ICO in either March or April and just 26 in May.
Not that the regulator has exactly been stamping its authority over breaches of the Privacy & Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) for the past 12 months.
According to official figures, compiled by Decision Marketing, in the first ten months of the regulator’s financial year (from April 2019 to January 2020), there were 101,437 complaints under PECR, yet it had only issued six fines, totalling £700,000.
This was a dramatic reduction in enforcement action compared to the previous two years, despite similar levels of consumer complaints.
Since then, there have been two further rulings over unsolicited direct marketing calls, with Clydebank-based CRDNN hit for £500,000 on March 2 and Black Lion Marketing fined £171,000 on March 27.
This lack of action had triggered claims that the ICO had hung up on PECR breach enforcement action. But, it seems, for the moment at least, rogue marketers have been silenced as well.
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