ICO raids nuisance calls firms

ICO raids nuisance calls firms

For some time now I have been rung out of the blue by a very concerned young lady who wants to know how I’ve got on after my accident. Touched as I am by her concern, I keep reassuring her I am fine.

Joking aside these nuisance cold-calls are one of the modern curses of our lives so when I hear some of the firms making the calls have been arrested, I can’t help but give a little cheer.

This week, the UK’s data protection watchdog, The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) raided two such unnamed companies who are suspected of making millions from nuisance calls.

The calls ranged from road traffic accidents, personal injury claims and household insurance. Both firms, the ICO says, were in breach of direct marketing rules under the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR).

Today’s searches will fire a clear warning shot to business owners who operate outside the law by making nuisance marketing calls to people who have no wish to receive them.

The evidence seized will help us identify any illegal business activities and assist us to take enforcement action, which may include action against the directors, on behalf of the victims who have turned to us for help.

- Andy Curry: head of anti-nuisance call team, ICO

The ICO’s record on this has been patchy. But following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, where the ICO was forced to go to court to get a warrant, the ICO’s powers have been extended to conduct no-notice inspections, as well as more streamlined warrants.

The ICO was also given greater powers to levy personal fines of up to £500,000 on the directors of nuisance call companies. This, in a bid to prevent executives simply liquidating their companies to dodge any penalties handed to them under PECR.

This is all to the good but with estimates suggesting that almost 40% of calls are cold-calls what exactly can we do to stop them at the coalface?

Well, Which? says you should report any nuisance call either to them or the ICO. But the best way to prevent them getting to you is by registering with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS).

The TPS is free to use and is a register that records your preference not to receive any unsolicited sales or marketing calls. If, despite registering with TPS, you still receive calls you can make a complaint to the TPS and they will investigate. Unfortunately, the TPS cannot prosecute companies but it will pass on complaints to the ICO.

And finally, a word of warning. Last year fraudsters set-up a fake enhanced preference service and, ironically, cold-called people in an effort to get them to pay a fee to sign-up. Remember, there is no charge for the service and if anyone calls to get you to pay they are criminals.


A veteran freelance journalist writing extensively on internet news and cybersecurity.
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