The information commissioner ‘s office has fined several companies for nuisance calls over the course of 2015, with penalties totalling £1.1 million.
The government watchdog body imposed the fines after investigation tens of thousands of different complaints over the year from people who had received unsolicited telephone calls and text messages from firms and companies of various kinds.
The size of this fine is up significantly from last year, when a similar investigation resulted in fines totalling £330,000, despite the number of complaints actually being lower this year by around 5,000. In 2014, just over 175,000 complaints were received, with 170,000 in 2015.
The largest fine this year went to solar panel providers Home Energy and Lifestyle Management Ltd who, it was reported, made a total of 6 million nuisance calls throughout the year and were made to pay £200,000 as a penalty.
Unsurprisingly, a large fine (of £80,000) was issued to a company who had been pestering individuals with calls offering PPI claims services. The company in question, UKMS Money Solutions Ltd, sent just over 1.3 million unsolicited text messages to UK citizens.
The ICO, which had its powers extended by the government this year, made a name for itself recently when the Telegraph Media Group was fined some £30,000 after it was found in breach of direct marketing rules.
The fine came when, on the day of the general election, the Telegraph ‘s otherwise regular newsletter came attached with a letter from Chris Evans, the editor, urging readers to vote for the conservative party.
This all comes not long after the National Advice Clinic were fined £850,000 earlier in December for making 6 million nuisance calls offering to get customers compensation following hearing loss induced by loud noises. This case was handled by the Claims Management Regulator, rather than the ICO.
Between October 2014 and April 2015, around 2,000 complaints were made to Ofcom about the company, which also goes under the name of the Central Compensation Office.
A lot of those calls were made to households who had already registered with the Telephone Preference Service – a company that, according to their website, offers customers “the opportunity to opt out of receiving unsolicited calls.”
Kevin Rousell, head of the CMR, described the company ‘s relentless campaign of nuisance calls as “deliberate and sustained, and a flagrant breach of our marketing requirements.”
Richard Lloyd of the Which? group weighed in, saying: “millions of people are still being plagued with nuisance calls so it ‘s good to see more firms being fined for flouting the rules.
“However,” he added, “we also need to see further action including much tougher penalties for senior executives of companies making unlawful calls, including board directors being held personally accountable.”
Christopher Graham, the Information Commissioner, has been urging the government to extend his powers further still. In particular, he wants the maximum punishments to be made more severe for those found guilty of selling data to nuisance calling companies, thus breaking data protection laws.