Show us the money: £7m in ICO fines still outstanding

call 2Over £7m in fines issued for breaches of data protection and telemarketing laws in the UK over the past four years remains unpaid, with claims management companies – which owe £3.2m – the worst offenders.

According to a Freedom of Information request carried out by SMS Works, the Information Commissioner’s Office has issued 152 fines since 2015, totalling £16.6m. However, 47 penalties, totalling £7m, are still outstanding.

The claims management industry, which has ridden roughshod over the law in its pursuit of PPI claims, is head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to non-payment, with just £490,000 out of £3.2m in fines having being settled.

The majority of these penalties have been for telemarketing offences, under the Privacy & Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR), which carry a maximum penalty of £500,000.

The largest outstanding amount is the £400,000 fine for Keurboom Communications, a company behind nearly 100 million nuisance calls, which dates back to 2017.  The firm’s sole director Gregory Rudd liquidated the business to avoid payment and it appears that, so far at least, he has swerved further action.

Other rogue directors include AMS Marketing chief Elia Bols. His firm was wound up by the High Court in May this year for non-payment of a £100,000 fine, yet he is still director of other businesses on the South Coast.

The ICO said: “We actively exercise our rights as a creditor to appoint professional insolvency practitioners, and work closely with the Insolvency Service in these cases, to not only seek to recover the money owed to the taxpayer but also to support action to disqualify the worst offenders from running companies in the future.”

Just last month, Solartech North East bosses Christopher Snaith and Jeffrey Hall became the latest to be banned from holding a company directorship when the Insolvency Service barred them for six years apiece.

Snaith and Hall become the 18th and 19th members of the rogues gallery of directors who have been disqualified for a total of 124½ years for PECR offences; they include Shaun Harkin of Easyleads, six years; Keith Hancock of Lad Media, four years; and Aaron Stalberg, Lead Experts, six years. Reactiv Media call centre boss Tony Abbott was the first to be disqualified after being barred for 12 years in January 2018.

New laws came into force in December last year in an amendment to PECR, giving the ICO extra powers to make directors of rogue call firms personally liable for fines of up to £500,000. These powers have yet to be used, however.

Although fines go to the Treasury rather than direct to the ICO, the move comes just days after it was revealed that the regulator is facing a funding shortfall due to data protection fee dodgers.

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