The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) on 18 June 2013 issued two monetary notices against Nationwide Energy Services Ltd and We Claim U Gain Ltd totalling £225,000. Both companies are part of Save Britain Money Ltd based in Swansea. The penalties were issued after the companies were found to be responsible for over 2,700 complaints to the ICO or Telephone Preference Service (TPS) between 26 May 2011 and 31 December 2012.
The companies had not carried out adequate checks to check whether the individuals they were calling were registered with the TPS and the companies failed to stop contacting individuals who informed them that they did not wish to be contacted in this manner. This is a legal requirement under the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 (PEC Regulations) which restricts how businesses can make unsolicited direct marketing telephone calls.
After examining complaints received by the ICO, four of the complainants said that the caller made representations causing them to believe that the call was from an official body responsible for handing out government grants. For example, on one occasion the caller stated that they were a 'Government Grants Adviser' and on another occasion that they represented HMRC in relation to a new government grant called the 'Eco Grant'.
ICO Director of Operations, Simon Entwisle, said:
"While we're pleased with our success to date, there is still more we can do, and we welcome discussions in the House of Commons last week around ways to improve the law around unwanted marketing calls and texts. We'd like to see it made easier for us to issue penalties to companies who are breaking the rules. Similarly, everyone involved seems to agree that the rules on how consumers give their consent to receive calls needs to be clearer."
The level of the fines demonstrates that the ICO takes these forms of breaches seriously. The ICO has set up an online reporting tool to enable consumers to send the ICO details of any unwanted marketing texts and calls and it has received over 200,000 responses since the survey was setup in March 2012.
To avoid similar fines, organisations that carry out marketing by telephone should ensure that they have adequate procedures in place to check records against up-to-date TPS lists and that marketing consents and opt-outs are recorded accurately and kept up to date.
This publication is intended for general guidance and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at June 2013. Specific advice should be sought for specific cases; we cannot be held responsible for any action (or decision not to take action) made in reliance upon the content of this publication.
TLT LLP is a limited liability partnership registered in England & Wales number OC 308658 whose registered office is at One Redcliff Street, Bristol BS1 6TP England. A list of members (all of whom are solicitors or lawyers) can be inspected by visiting the People section of this website. TLT LLP is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority under number 406297.