Nuisance call firms ‘can expect to be fined more than than £1m next year’

Companies making nuisance calls have been warned to expect fines of more than a million pounds in 20

Companies making nuisance calls have been warned to expect fines of more than a million pounds in 2016. - Credit: PA

Companies making nuisance calls have been warned to expect fines of more than a million pounds in 2016.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) received 170,000 concerns from those who had nuisance calls and texts over the past year.

This figure is a slight decrease on 2014, when 175,330 people contacted the ICO to raise concerns.

Payment protection insurance (PPI) claims prompted the most complaints, followed by accident claims, the ICO said.

Call blocking services, oven cleaning and industrial hearing injury claims were identified as emerging sectors for nuisance calls and texts.

The ICO imposed penalties of more than £1m in 2015, with the same amount in the pipeline for early 2016.

Andy Currey, enforcement group manager for the ICO, said: “Nuisance marketing calls frustrate people.

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“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.”

These fines include £295,000 for companies offering call blocking or nuisance call prevention services.

A PPI claims firm was fined £80,000 after sending 1.3 million text messages.

A solar panels company that made six million nuisance calls was handed a penalty of £200,000.

The ICO also fined pharmacy company Pharmacy 2U Ltd £130,000 for selling customer details to marketing companies.

Help Direct UK Ltd, Oxygen Ltd and UKMS Money Solutions Ltd were fined £400,000 for nuisance text messages.

Direct Assist Ltd, Point One Marketing, Cold Call Elimination Ltd, Home Energy & Lifestyle Management Ltd, Nuisance Call Blocker Ltd and Telecom Protection Service Ltd were told to pay £575,000 for nuisance calls.

The Telegraph Media Group Ltd was handed a £30,000 penalty for sending marketing emails, the ICO added.

In total, the ICO imposed fines of £1,135,000 in 2015.

One person who received a call from the Telecom Protection Service (TPS) said: “I was recovering from major surgery at the time and the call caused me distress.

“The caller was very smooth talking and did not make it clear that he was selling a commercial service that was nothing to do with the TPS.

“The call was frankly misleading.”

Another, who had calls from HELM, said: “I am receiving daily updates regarding a friend in hospital, and am expecting the worst.

“When these calls come in I expect it to be from the hospital.”

A person whose mother received a call from Cold Call Elimination said: “I am looking after my elderly mother who has terminal cancer.

“She initially answered and I could see I needed to intervene as I could hear the sales guy not giving up.

“I took the phone and asked him who he was and what he wanted.

“He got quite annoyed that I had intervened and I told him we were not interested.”

The ICO can take action to change the behaviour of organisations and individuals that collect, use and keep personal information.

This includes criminal prosecution, non-criminal enforcement and audit. It can impose a fines of up to £500,000 on a data controller.

Money paid from such penalties is paid into the Treasury’s Consolidated Fund.