Decision Marketing is launching a campaign calling on the Government to finally introduce legislation which will make directors of rogue marketing firms personally liable for fines, after we can reveal that out of the £7m in penalties issued for so-called nuisance calls and texts since 2015, nearly £5m remains unpaid.
The “Call Time on Rogue Marketers” initiative is urging the Department of Digital, Culture, Media & Sport to resurrect measures first included in The Unsolicited Marketing Communications (Company Directors) Bill 2016-17 which would see directors personally liable for fines of up to £500,000.
Despite support from the then digital minister Matt Hancock – who is now the Secretary of State – the Bill was scrapped in the run-up to the 2017 General Election. The Information Commissioner’s Office has repeatedly said the legislation cannot come soon enough.
The “Call Time” campaign follows a Freedom of Information request made by Decision Marketing over how many ICO fines remain unpaid since the regulator gained new powers in 2015.
According to the FoI response, the regulator has issued a total of £10,601,850 in penalties since 2015, with £3,512,750 for breaches of the Data Protection Act (DPA), £7,058,500 under Privacy in Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) and £30,600 for PECR 5A, which relates specifically to personal data breaches by service providers.
And while most DPA and PECR 5A penalties have been paid, with £95,000 and £1,000 outstanding respectively, the amount remaining unpaid for PECR breaches is a whopping £4,945,189.
Some 40 separate PECR penalties have been issued, seven in this year alone, with 27 companies so far either going into liquidation to avoid the fine or being brought down by other creditors.
The ICO continues to work with The Insolvency Service to chase up these debts but this can be a long and laborious process. Although two directors – Tony Abbott of Reactiv Media and Leah Masters of Cold Call Elimination – have recently been barred, the fines are still outstanding.
When contacted by Decision Marketing, the DCMS could not give a timeline for any new legislation but a spokeswoman added: “We remain committed to consulting on a set of measures to clamp down on directors of companies responsible for nuisance calls.”
Decision Marketing publishing editor Charlie McKelvey said: “Enough is enough. The ICO is working hard to bring these rogues to book but it is hamstrung but the lack of legislation which would affect them personally. All too often, directors simply shut up shop on one company and then start all over again.
“We need action to finally rid the marketing industry of these rogues who have been preying on consumers with impunity for far too long, and we believe the only way to do that is to hit them where it hurts.”
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