ICO sets alarm bells ringing for ‘cold callers’ as it fines home security firms

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Two firms that were behind nearly 600,000 nuisance calls attempting to sell home security systems to people registered with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS), have been fined a total of £220,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office.

It is against the law to make marketing calls to numbers that have been registered with the TPS.

ACT Response Ltd of Middlesbrough was behind 496,455 live marketing calls to TPS subscribers and has been fined £140,000.

There were 128 complaints made about the company between January 2017 and February 2018.

This included:

“Didn’t get any other details but this number calls all the time, several times a day and seven days a week and it’s driving me mad.”

The script used by the company for making the calls, even asked people whether they were registered with the TPS.

The full penalty notice to ACT Response Ltd can be read here.

Another firm, Secure Home Systems (SHS) of Bilston, West Midlands, has been fined £80,000 for making calls to 84,347 numbers registered with the TPS between September and December 2017, using call lists bought from third parties without screening them.

People made 268 complaints about the company over a two-year period.

This included:

”I was angry and disturbed that they had obtained my number and ignored the fact that we’re registered with the TPS.”

The full penalty notice to Secure Home Systems can be read here.

Andy Curry, ICO Group Enforcement Manager, said:

“These fines should set alarm bells ringing and deter marketing companies across all sectors that are contacting people without their consent. It is a company’s responsibility to make sure that it has valid consent to make these calls.

“The TPS is there for a reason – to protect people’s privacy and ensure that marketing companies obey the law. Marketing companies failing to take the basic step of checking TPS can expect robust enforcement.”

The advice for people who receive nuisance marketing calls, emails and texts is to ask the company to remove their details from their lists, read the small print and be careful about ticking boxes which could give them consent to contact you and to report them to the ICO.

Companies that carry out electronic marketing and want to make sure they are complying with the law, should subscribe to the TPS for a fee to get the register of subscribers to screen their own call lists against. Further advice is available on the ICO website.

The ICO has the power to issue fines up to £500,000 to firms who carry out nuisance marketing under the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR).

Notes to Editors

  1. The Information Commissioner’s Office upholds information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.
  2. The ICO has specific responsibilities set out in the Data Protection Act 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the Freedom of Information Act 2000, Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003.
  3. The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) give people specific privacy rights in relation to electronic communications. There are specific rules on:
    • marketing calls, emails, texts and faxes;
    • cookies (and similar technologies);
    • keeping communications services secure; and
    • customer privacy as regards traffic and location data, itemised billing, line identification, and directory listings.

We aim to help organisations comply with PECR and promote good practice by offering advice and guidance. We will take enforcement action against organisations that persistently ignore their obligations.

  1. The ICO has the power under PECR to impose a monetary penalty on a data controller of up to £500,000.
  2. Civil Monetary Penalties (CMPs) are subject to a right of appeal to the (First-tier Tribunal) General Regulatory Chamber against the imposition of the monetary penalty and/or the amount of the penalty specified in the monetary penalty notice.
  3. Any monetary penalty is paid into the Treasury’s Consolidated Fund and is not kept by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
  4. To report a concern to the ICO, visit ico.org.uk/concerns.
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