At last, nuisance calls to be taken seriously

The ICO crackdown on nuisance calls reaches 100-year milestone with company directors banned. How compliant is your data and what does your marketing programme look like?

Investigations by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) into nuisance marketing have resulted in 16 company directors being banned from running a company for more than 100 years in total. The latest ban, issued by the Insolvency Service, is effective from 1 March 2019 and disqualifies one of the worst offenders the ICO has seen since the laws were introduced 15 years ago.

Richard Jones, 31, of Carmarthen, South Wales has been barred from being a company director for eight years after his two companies, Your Money Rights Ltd and Miss-Sold Products UK Ltd were responsible for 220 million automated nuisance calls and failed to pay fines issued by the ICO.

Most of the calls made were about payment protection insurance (PPI) claims and resulted in total fines of £700,000 in 2017. Mr Jones had applied to Companies House to have the businesses wound up to avoid paying the fines. This was blocked by the ICO which then referred the case on to the Insolvency Service.

The ICO has reached this key milestone by working in partnership with the Insolvency Service, referring evidence which can result in company directors being disqualified for up to 15 years.

Andy Curry, ICO Investigations Group Manager, said: “Nuisance calls are a blight on people’s lives. We are partnering with the Insolvency Service to disrupt and obstruct unscrupulous operators like Richard Jones who cause misery and distress to their victims.

“Directors of rogue companies like him who try to shut down their businesses to avoid paying our fine and carry on their illegal activities under another company name should not expect to get away with it.

“This is typical of the type of case we refer to the Insolvency Service, where companies are making a high volume of calls, texts or emails and where there is a high risk they will continue to flout the law even after we have taken action.”

David Brooks, Chief Investigator for the Insolvency Service, said: “Nuisance marketing communications not only flagrantly breach regulations, but cause untold anguish and grief for a substantial number of people.

“One hundred years’ worth of bans is a significant landmark and we will continue to work closely with the ICO so that we can prevent rogue company directors from causing any more harm.”

The 16 directors have been disqualified for a total of 107.5 years, these include more recent cases such as: Shaun Harkin, Easyleads Ltd, six years; Keith Hancock of LAD Media, four years; Aaron Stalberg, Lead Experts, six years.

The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) give people specific privacy rights in relation to electronic communications. There are specific rules on: marketing calls, emails, texts and faxes; cookies (and similar technologies); keeping communications services secure; and customer privacy as regards traffic and location data, itemised billing, line identification, and directory listings.

So, why does this matter?

The data you use to call, text, email or even write to – where does it come from? And what lawful reason do you have to communicate or market to?

  • What do you have?
  • Where did it come from?
  • What are you using it for?

If it’s under consent, how can you provide evidence? If you acquired the data, what risk does this put you in?

A big part of what people did last year was putting privacy and cookie policies on their websites so we all now have the pop-up window asking our permission but just contacting for consent isn’t necessarily the best way forward. Every business must make sure they know what data they have, the type of data they process, the retention periods and what evidence is in place to allow any sort of marketing or promotion to go ahead.

A large part of what DLM Group does is the analysis of procedures that are put in place to make sure the road to compliance is a safe one.