Regulation Hub Update - Summer 2023
26 Sep 2023
The ICO has continued to levy relatively few fines this year – and those it has imposed continue to be typically due to failures to obey the PECR rules.
Business mobile provider Ice Comms, utility broker Direct Business Solutions, Crown Glazing and energy broker Maxen Power have all been fined – a total of £430,00 between them - for breaking the PECR regulations and making outbound sales calls to prospects whose numbers had been registered with the TPS and CTPS 'do not call lists'.
In addition they had poor or non-existent contracts with their third party data providers and struggled to demonstrate any customer consent to be contacted.
Join The Triboo, which operates a raft of jobs sites, was responsible for sending over 100 million emails to consumers who had not provided real, informed consent to the sites' marketing communications - which averaged 244 emails per person, over the course of a year.
Triboo was fined £130,000 as a result.
Look After My Bills Is the price comparison and switching service run by the wackily named This Is The Big Deal Limited. They might have big deals, but they have been hit with a surprisingly small fine by the ICO - £30,000.
The ICO ruled that Look After didn't have legal consent to send over 41 million marketing texts and emails, either directly or (mostly) via affiliates. And the ICO gave Look After’s claim that it wasn’t the instigator of the comms sent by its affiliates short shrift!
Another surprisingly low £30,000 fine has been levied on debt management outfit, Fortis.
Fortis' illegal marketing messages - mostly to the unsuccessful applicants to loan brokerage sites - weren't at the scale of Look After My Bills', but still amounted to over half a million texts offering ‘debt relief plans’ sent illegally.
The details of all the enforcement cases and fines can be found, as usual, on the ICO's website.
Data Protection & Digital Information Bill
The new Data Protection & Digital Information bill is still making its way through Parliament. Rest assured the DMA is closely monitoring progress and will continue to provide guidance and updates like this Virtual Legal Update, on 18th October. Follow the link and sign-up!
Digital Markets, Competition & Consumers Bill
The new Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill making its way through parliament promises to tackle the 'subscription trap', big tech and the fake reviews industry.
Of most interest to contact centres will be the proposed changes to how firms manage subscriptions. A key requirement of the new bill when it becomes law will be that:
“Consumers need to be able to cancel through a single communication, without undue barriers”
which will mark an end to many centres’ Retention teams – along with requirements for cancelling customers to call through to a special number to end their subscription.
In May the government launched its new Fraud Strategy
It was a mixture of underwhelming and overdue ideas. Amongst others it included:
- Expanding the cold calling ban to all financial services products. As you may know, marketing calls about claims management and pensions are already illegal without consent, but the intention now is to expand it all financial products and services.
- If you’d like to share your views on this proposal, the Treasury’s consultation is open until 27th September
- Stopping the use of SIM farms, mass texting and number spoofing.
- Refreshing Action Fraud.
- Something the government announces most years and presumably forgets to do anything about.
Ofcom’s annual survey of telco firms’ performance shows that the “80% of calls answered in 20 seconds” yardstick is a distant memory for consumers….
In the last Regulation Hub Update we explained that after an investigation into energy sector customer service standards, E.ON, had been served a Provisional Order to improve. A couple of months later Ofgem demonstrated its seriousness by fining E.ON £5m.
Ofgem carried out a series of Market Compliance Reviews of the domestic energy market, looking at four areas of performance.
Ofgem found that E.ON's customer service displayed "severe weaknesses" when assessed last autumn. E.ON reported average 18 minute call waiting times and customers abandoning 50% of their calls before they were answered.
As a result E.ON agreed to a £5m surcharge, divided between paying compensation to affected customers (a princely £8 each!) and help for vulnerable customers.
And now Ofgem has announced a rapid consultation on a new Customer Service Standard it plans to have in place by the end of the year.
Amongst other measures attempting to make life better for domestic energy consumers Ofgem wants
"...energy supplier enquiry lines to stay open longer, including evenings and weekends – and be easier to contact via multiple methods such as email, webchat or other digital-based platforms"
Which sounds like more stress for energy firms' Customer Service, CX and Technology teams - and potential new business for the outsourced service and technology providers.
And not to be left out, in May Ofwat launched a consultation on imposing some basic customer service standards as part of its licenses with water firms.