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ICO fines Glasgow firm £90,000 for nuisance calls

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has issued a £90,000 penalty notice on a Glasgow firm for plaguing the public with thousands of unwanted marketing calls.

The ICO and the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) received nearly 2,000 complaints about DM Design. The company consistently failed to check whether individuals had opted out of receiving marketing calls – in clear breach of the law – and responded to just a handful of the complaints received.

In one instance an employee refused to remove a complainant’s details from the company’s system and instead threatened to “continue to call at more inconvenient times like Sunday lunchtime”.
The monetary penalty is the first the ICO has issued for a serious breach of the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) relating to live marketing calls. This latest penalty comes after the joint owners of a company responsible for sending of hundreds of thousands of spam texts, received penalties totalling £440,000 in November last year.

Chief of operations at the Direct Marketing Association, Mike Lordan, said: “We’re pleased that the ICO has used its power to issue its first fine to a company breaching telemarketing rules. Companies cold calling people registered with the Telephone Preference Service are causing serious harm to the reputable telemarketing industry.
“The ICO must use enforcement action to protect the consumer, as well as the interests of the vast majority of companies that comply with the law and adhere to the highest standards of best practice. We know there are more companies breaking the law, so we look forward to seeing further enforcement action.”

The ICO has informed two more companies that it is intending to impose significant penalties over breaches of the law, with a final decision likely in the coming weeks. A further 10 companies are subject to ongoing investigation for cold calling and sending spam text messages.

Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham, said: “This fine will not be an isolated penalty. We know other companies are showing a similar disregard for the law and we’ve every intention of taking further enforcement action against companies that continue to bombard people with unlawful marketing texts and calls.”

The ICO and Ofcom will be publishing an open letter to the marketing industry reminding companies that they must comply with the legal and regulatory measures in place. Failure to do so will lead to enforcement action, with the ICO able to issue penalties of up to £500,000 for serious breaches of the PECR, and Ofcom having the power to issue penalties of up to £2m over breaches of rules linked to abandoned and silent calls.

John Mitchison, Head of the Telephone Preference, said: “The TPS has been urging the ICO for enforcement action against companies operating outside of the law for the last 18 months, so we welcome this action as an important first step to reduce the number of nuisance calls. Unsolicited phone calls can be annoying and cause distress to millions of people and it’s the responsibility of the regulators to protect the consumer.”

Smarayda Christoforou

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