Companies warned to expect further fines over nuisance calls

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has issued a warning to companies making nuisance calls to expect further fines, with more than £1 million of penalties already in the pipeline in the coming year.

Andy Curry, enforcement group manager for ICO, said: “Nuisance marketing calls frustrate people. The law is clear around what is allowed, and we’ve been clear that we will fine companies who don’t follow the law. That will continue in 2016; we’ve got 90 ongoing investigations and a million pounds worth of fines in the pipeline.”

The ICO imposed around the same amount on firms making unwanted calls and text messages in 2015, including a £200,000 fine to a solar panels company that made six million nuisance calls. Home Energy & Lifestyle Management (HELM) was penalised in September last year after making over six million calls as part of an automated call marketing campaign offering ‘free’ solar panels.

And the spotlight appears to be on solar installers after the Advertising Standards Authority warned 3 Solar UK last week over misleading advertising, following up on a complaint made by Renewable Energy Assurance Limited.

Existing rules governing automated calls state an organisation should have people’s permission before making contact however it was found that HELM failed to meet this criteria, with the company admitting that it was unaware of the rules. The hefty fine was enforced to reflect “the clear failings of the company, and the number of people affected by its deliberate and unlawful campaign.”

Steve Eckersley, head of enforcement at the ICO, added: “It should be a warning to other companies to think before they launch into a campaign. Direct marketing campaigns can be run within the law with a little thought and there’s plenty of advice available to companies.”

Last month the ICO warned of a tightening of the European Union's data laws, due to be published in full in March this year, which look set to incorporate new regulations regarding consumer opt-ins and the use of third-party contact centres.