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October 24, 2016
Company bosses and firms could face fines of up to £1 million under tough new Government plans aimed at tackling nuisance calls.
From Spring 2017, company directors can each be fined up to £500,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office, if they are found to be in breach of the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003.
Before this, only businesses were liable for fines, many of which tried to escape paying nuisance call penalties by declaring bankruptcy and then re-opening under a different name. In a move to tackle this, the Government is providing the ICO with powers to hold company directors directly responsible.
Minister of State for Digital and Culture Matt Hancock said: “Nuisance callers are a blight on society, causing significant distress to elderly and vulnerable people. We have been clear that we will not stand for this continued harassment, and this latest amendment to the law will strike another blow to those businesses and company bosses responsible”.
This “tough new stance” is, the DCMS says, just “one of a number of measures” introduced by the Government in its “ongoing campaign against nuisance callers” to better protect the personal data of UK citizens. These have included forcing companies to display their caller ID and working with Trading Standards to provide call blocking devices to vulnerable members of society.
Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said: “The people running nuisance call companies have little regard for the anxiety and upset they cause all in the name of turning a fast profit. We are inundated with complaints from people who are left shaken and distressed by the intrusion on their daily lives. We’re quick to fine the companies responsible, but we’ve been speaking to the government about going further than that because we must do all we can to help protect people from these calls. Making directors responsible will stop them ducking away from fines by putting their company into liquidation. It will stop them leaving by the back door as the regulator comes through the front door.”
To date, the ICO has issued fines totalling almost £3.7 million to companies behind nuisance marketing. This year alone, the ICO has fined firms responsible for more than 70 million calls and nearly 8 million spam text messages.
More than 114,000 nuisance calls and texts have been reported to ICO this year.
Alex Neill, Which? Managing Director of Home & Legal services, said: “This is a massive victory for the hundreds of thousands of people who supported our Nuisance Calls campaign. It’s good to see the Government has listened to consumers and will be introducing new rules to hold company directors to account. This legislation will stop rogues dodging fines for bombarding consumers with nuisance calls and side-stepping the rules by closing one business and re-establishing a new one.” To read the DCMS press release in full, click here.