UK Politics

Big increase in cold call complaints but few fines

Man on phone in front of a laptop Image copyright BBC/Sophie Mutevelian

Just four fines were issued to companies making cold calls last year despite 155,270 complaints from phone users, new figures show.

Complaints about phone calls from marketers have risen sharply over the past four years since the public have been able to report them online.

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) can levy fines of up to £500,000 but has never done so.

It has issued 11 smaller fines since 2008.

The ICO declined to comment on the figures, but it said each case was considered on its own merits when it came to handing out financial penalties.

Some 61 MP's from across the political spectrum have signed an Early Day Motion calling for action against nuisance calls, which was tabled by the SNP's Patricia Gibson, who is due to raise the issue in the Commons next week.

According to the motion, a Which? campaign states that one in three people feel intimidated by cold calls.

The new figures show there were 80,188 complaints about automated calls, and one fine, and 75,082 complaints about "live calls", with four fines, in 2014/15.

Newly-elected Labour MP Tulip Siddiq obtained the figures through a written Parliamentary answer.

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey told her: "In determining the level of fine, the ICO takes into account the seriousness of the contravention, the aggravating and mitigating factors and the organisation's ability to pay."

This October, the ICO fined Home Energy and Lifestyle Management Ltd. (HELM) £200,000. The company made more than six million calls as part of an automated campaign offering "free" solar panels.

The ICO's head of enforcement, Steve Eckersley, said: "This company's ignorance of the law is beyond belief.

"It didn't even bother to find out what the rules were and its badly thought-out marketing campaign made people's lives a misery."

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