A company which made more than 100,000 telemarketing calls to people about their pensions – even though it did not manage pensions, was not registered with the Financial Conduct Authority and did not even have consent to do in the first place – has been fingered by the Information Commissioner’s Office.
Swansea company CPS Advisory first came to the attention of the ICO following a report from Aviva relating to an unsolicited live pension call from a specific Calling Line Identity (CLI). Enquiries with the relevant service provider, established that the CLI in question was one of a number shown as being allocated to an organisation called JMR Financial.
Set up in April 2015, Companies House lists three directors of the business, James Michael Cullen, Richard James Palmer, and Marc Paul William Standish.
However, when the ICO enquired further, JMR Financial revealed that the marketing calls were actually being made by a separate company called CPS Advisory, which just so happened to be run by the same three directors.
CPS Advisory insisted that the data used for its telemarketing calls was purchased from third party data providers. In response to the ICO’s request for evidence of consent for the complaints received, CPS Advisory simply stated that “it is highly likely that these records have consented to receiving calls from us” but was unable to provide evidence of the specific consent.
During its investigation, the ICO found that between January 11 2019 and April 30 2019, the company had made 106,987 calls to people without lawful authority.
Under new laws, companies can only make live calls to people about their occupational or personal pensions if the caller is authorised by the FCA, or is the trustee or manager of an occupational or personal pension scheme, and the recipient of the call consents to calls, or has an existing relationship with the caller.
The change to the Privacy & Electronic Communications Regulation (PECR) which covers marketing calls, phone and texts in January 2019, was to prevent people falling victim to scams, most of which are carried out through nuisance calls, and potentially losing their pensions.
Fining CPS Advisory £130,000, ICO head of investigations Andy Curry said: “Unwanted pension calls can cause real distress and even significant financial hardship to often vulnerable people, who can end up losing their hard-earned pension pot to scammers.
“This company clearly flouted the law when they should have known better. Businesses making direct marketing calls are responsible for understanding their responsibilities under the legislation, ignorance is no excuse.”
John Glen, the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, added: “Pensions cold calls are the most common method used to initiate pension scams, which can rob people of their hard-earned savings and ruin lives. That’s why we banned them. Today’s fine should act as a warning to others that pensions cold calling is unacceptable, and those found flouting the rules will be held to account.”
JMR Financial has since been dissolved, but according to Companies House, CPS Advisory is still active, as is another business owned by Cullen, Palmer, and Standish called Secure for Life Limited, although how secure that company is, is anyone’s guess.
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