Tech

UK watchdog fines two firms £270k for cold-calling 531,000 people who had opted out

Another month and two more British companies behind nuisance marketing calls are collectively facing a £270,000 penalty for breaking the law by calling people registered by the Telephone Preference Service (TPS).

As savvy Reg readers know only too well, it is illegal to make unsolicited phone calls to anyone signed up to TPS for 28 days or more. Just last month UK data watchdog the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) issued the same financial slap against four companies found to be flouting regulations.

The latest offenders successfully dialled up hundreds of thousands of TPS users over a months-long period that led to numerous complaints to the ICO and TPS. The pair contravened regulation 21 of the Privacy and Electronics Communication Regulations (PECR) 2003.

Call Centre Ops [PDF] of Nottingham, in the heart of England, made 159,461 direct marketing calls to TPS registered users between May and October 2019, and a number of complaints were subsequently were sent to the ICO. The company told the watchdog that it used data provided by third-party lead generation suppliers.

The ICO said there was no evidence the business had made checks to ensure adequacy of consent to call TPS users in the database, and it fined Call Centre Ops £120,000. The director has until 12 March to pay.

When it contacted Call Centre Ops in March last year with an end-of-investigation email, the ICO discovered the business – whose sole director was listed on Companies House as Roberto Milanesi – had been liquidated. The ICO does have powers to go after directors of businesses that have folded when it chooses.

Penalty

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The second offender was House Guard [PDF], located in Bournemouth on the south coast, which was found to have made 699,966 marketing calls between May and December 2018 – 371,958 to TPS-registered numbers. The business, which specialises in masonry protection solutions, generated 58 complaints.

The ICO said it had asked House Guard about compliance with PECR, and found it too had bought a database of phone numbers from several third parties, and had not screened the data against TPS. The ICO said there were multiple breaches of PECR.

House Guard has now been fined £150,000 and payment is due via BACS transfer or cheque by 12 March. This will be reduced by 20 per cent if payment in full is made by 11 March.

“If you sign up to the TPS, you should not expect to get nuisance calls. It’s as simple as that,” said Andy Curry, head of investigations at the ICO. “Companies that have no respect for their customers wishes and choose to flout the law can expect to face the consequences – for their reputation and their bottom line.”

We have asked the ICO if it intends to pursue Milanesi, the founder and sole director at Call Centre Ops, and a spokesperson said: “The ICO doesn’t find directors, officers of companies or companies themselves ‘guilty’.

“A monetary penalty is a civil administrative procedure. As you know a final Notice has recently been issued against Call Centre Ops for £120,000. If the penalty is unpaid after the deadline set out in the Notice, the ICO will consider all options open to it to undertake further action against responsible staff at the company, including recovery of the penalty in full.” ®


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