Companies making nuisance calls have been warned to expect more fines in 2016.

The ICO imposed more than a million pounds worth of penalties for nuisance calls and text messages in 2015, with the same amount in the pipeline for early 2016.

The fines included:

  • £295,000 of fines for companies offering call blocking or nuisance call prevention services
  • A £80,000 fine to a PPI claims firm that sent 1.3million text messages
  • A £200,000 fine to a solar panels company that made six million nuisance calls
  • A £130,000 fine to a pharmacy company that was selling customer details to postal marketing companies

Total fines related to nuisance marketing in 2015:

  • £400,000 fines for nuisance texts (Help Direct UK Ltd; Oxygen Ltd; UKMS Money Solutions Ltd)
  • £575,000 fines for nuisance calls (Direct Assist Ltd; Point One Marketing Ltd; Cold Call Elimination Ltd; Home Energy & Lifestyle Management Ltd (HELM); Home Energy & Lifestyle Management Ltd;  Nuisance Call Blocker Ltd; Telecom Protection Service Ltd)
  • £130,000 fine for selling customer records for marketing (Pharmacy 2U Ltd)
  • £30,000 fine for sending marketing email (Telegraph Media Group Ltd)

Total: £1,135,000. 

Andy Curry, ICO Enforcement Group Manager, said:

Nuisance marketing calls frustrate people. The law is clear around what is allowed, and we’ve been clear that we will fine companies who don’t follow the law. That will continue in 2016. We’ve got 90 ongoing investigations, and a million pounds worth of fines in the pipeline

The ICO received around 170,000 concerns in 2015 from people who’ve received nuisance calls and texts, a similar number to the previous year (2014: 175,330). PPI claims prompted the most complaints, followed by accident claims. Areas identified as emerging sectors for nuisance calls and texts included call blocking services, oven cleaning services and industrial hearing injury claims.

The following are examples of complaints showed the level of distress that calls can cause:

Telecom Protection Service:

“I was recovering from major surgery at the time and the call caused me distress. The caller was very smooth talking and did not make it clear that he was selling a commercial service that was nothing to do with the TPS. The call was frankly misleading.”

HELM:

“I am receiving daily updates regarding a friend in hospital, and am expecting the worst. When these calls come in I expect it to be from the hospital.”

Cold Call Elimination:

“This company has ‘conned’ my mother out of £84.99 for an unnecessary service … my parents are 87 and 86 respectively; my father is suffering from dementia.”

“I am looking after my elderly mother who has terminal cancer. She initially answered and I could see I needed to intervene as I could hear the sales guy not giving up. I took the phone and asked him who he was and what he wanted. He got quite annoyed that I had intervened and I told him we were not interested.”

Point One Marketing:

“Very upset and angry that my mum, who has dementia, was talked into giving credit card details when it would have been obvious to the caller that she had dementia. This caused my mum distress because I had to explain why her debit card had to be cancelled and what she had done. This has caused both of us great distress. Had I not checked her call log and … the number that had called her I would not have known it had happened at all.”

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