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The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has recently issued a monetary fine of £50,000 to a Maidstone firm for nuisance calls.
Nuisance marketing calls are split into 2 types: live marketing calls and automated marketing calls. They’re regulated by the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) 2003.
Live marketing calls shouldn’t be made to anyone who has registered with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS). The TPS is a service which allows individuals to block numbers from calling them. When organisations break the rules, they may incur hefty fines from the ICO.
MyHome Installations Ltd provide home security and electrical installation products and services to members of the public. They were found guilty of making unsolicited marketing telephone calls.
MyHome Installations reportedly used purchased data to make marketing calls where recipients had specifically “opted out” of telephone marketing. Between 6th April 2015 and 9th September 2016, the ICO received 169 complaints concerning calls to phone numbers listed on the TPS.
The ICO wrote to the company following the complaints to remind them of the potential monetary penalties (£500,000) they could face. They also asked a number of questions to see whether the company had complied with PECR rules.
On 31st August 2016, the company replied. It transpired they’d purchased the data from third party companies for the purposes of marketing.
They tried to explain that the data had been screened against the TPS and their own internal list, and they also claimed they’d checked a sample of the complaints, but allegedly couldn’t locate them. They appeared baffled by how they had received so many complaints, but the upshot is that they also couldn’t verify where the data was bought from, as the manager who bought data had reportedly left.
This gap in knowledge is probably how the error happened in the first place. Nevertheless, it’s not an acceptable excuse.
Receiving unsolicited calls worried many individuals. Some of the complaints noted by the ICO read as follows:
|“It made me worry that I would receive more phone calls pestering me to have someone come round and scaremonger me into having work done that I didn’t need or want.”
|“Callers asking about my home security are of concern to me, as they maybe sounding out the property prior to crime.”
|“3 under-8 children, getting them prepared for bed, really bad timing. Both occasions company refused to say where they obtained my number NOR would they give me a company contact to speak to.”
People making the complaints may have been further exacerbated due to the nature of the company; i.e. they specialise in home security. As the second commentator noted, individuals who receive an unwarranted telephone call from a home security company could easily be worried about where their information had come from, and may believe that it’s a bogus caller trying to scope out their property.
The Commissioner found that the company had breached Regulation 21 of the PECR:
“a person shall neither use, nor instigate the use of, a public electronic communications service for the purposes of making unsolicited calls for direct marketing purposes.”
For this reason, the ICO were satisfied on issuing a monetary penalty of £50,000.
The Commissioner states that issuing a monetary penalty shows the importance of complying with the PECR, especially since unsolicited marketing calls are a matter of significant public concern.
The ICO’s penalty should deter other companies and organisations from committing the same contravention. It should also encourage compliance of privacy regulations and legislation like the PECR and Data Protection Act (DPA).
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