ICO: We are dealing with the phenomenon of nuisance, and we are going after these people | DMA

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ICO: We are dealing with the phenomenon of nuisance, and we are going after these people

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The Information Commissioner today stated he would clamp down on dubious consent used as justification for circumventing the Telephone Preference Service

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today Programme, Chrisopher Graham the Information Commissioner responded to questions about alleged cold calling by a company in the East End of London on behalf of some high profile charities.

He said he had not taken a view on whether the company had been breaking the law, "We have got to investigate. This is not a case of the Red Queen - sentence first and verdict later."

Graham said the apparent grey area between legitimate and rogue calling needed to be clarified. "Anyone can register with the Telephone Preference Service and say 'I don't want to be called'. But if you have an established relationship with a firm or indeed a charity then they do have a right to contact you. The question is, are they overdoing it?

"What's of interest for us is, are the charities trading in lists of generous people, and are charities taking advantage of peoples' generosity? Or indeed just taking advantage of people full-stop?

"We will be asking the question 'where did these names come from?'," he said, but again reassured that while, "this is a boiler-room operation. This is cold calling. We need to get to the facts. I don't want to ... assume that everyone's guilty."

Graham said that the story, "Has posed some big questions for the chairty sector and regulator, the Information Commissioners' Office."

Rogue telemarketing was by no means restricted to the charity sector, according to Graham. "We had a 12% increase in complaints about nuisance calls last year. We had 180,000 concerns registered with the ICO - that's about 500 per day. It's not simply about charity fundraising, but people selling home insluation, PPI, compensation for accidents you have had or maybe you didn't have. We are dealing with the phenomenon of nuisance, and we are going after these people."

When asked about what he expected of companies using telemarketing, he said, "The charities are the data controller. You can't subcontract your responsibility to some boiler-room operation."

Then on the subject of consent, he said, "We don't realise that we are giving consent because there is some small thing in the small print way down in the privacy policy. We are going to be checking if it is valid consent anyway. If you have checked something saying we can pass your details onto someone who is interested, are we saying because you gave to one charity and are a generous sort of person, you are fair game for everybody? We say no. That's not valid consent.

Lastly, on the subject of enforcement, Graham said there did not need to be any new legislation. "We have got legislation it's a question of enforcing it and having the tools to enforce it.

"We campainged long and hard to give the Information Commissioners' Office the ability to go after high pressure sales people who used cold calling and text and things on the basis that it's a breach of the Electronic Communications regulations have to establish the extent to which damage had been caused or distress had been caused. We need the resources to do the job. We're geared up to do this, it's a major priority for my office. We don't need to tinker around the edges with the law, we just need to get on with it."

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