Business

Nuisance calls must be stopped earlier, says ICO

Telephone
Image caption More than 1,000 complaints were received regarding the calls

A regulator has called for more powers to stop companies making nuisance calls, after fining a firm that broke the rules.

Tameside Energy Services, based in Denton, Manchester, was fined £45,000 for making unwanted marketing calls.

The Information Commissioner received more than 1,000 complaints from people who had signed up to the Telephone Preference Service but still got calls.

The Commissioner now wants to be able to act earlier against such businesses.

It needs to display a risk of, or actual, "substantial damage or distress" as a result of marketing calls. It wants to be able to act when it sees a firm regularly breaching the rules.

Fine

In the latest case, Tameside Energy Services made calls to people about energy efficiency home improvements through the Green Deal scheme.

However, it failed to check whether those people being called were signed up to the Telephone Preference Service (TPS). Those who were signed up should not have received a call.

In addition, those who received a call and said they did not want such a call again were not removed from the firm's call list.

In one case, an 80-year-old woman continued to receive calls, despite telling the firm on 20 separate occasions that it must stop.

The breaches led to more than 1,000 complaints between May 2011 and January 2013.

"This is not the first and will not be the last monetary penalty issued by the ICO for unwanted marketing calls," said Simon Entwisle, director of operations at the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO).

"These companies need to listen - bombarding the public with cold calls will not be tolerated. Were it not for the company's poor financial position, this monetary penalty would have been £90,000.

"We would like to see the law changed to make it simpler for us to punish companies responsible for repeated and continuous breaches of the law."

Nineteen million phone numbers are registered to the TPS - about three-quarters of all landlines in the UK.

The ICO can issue fines of up to £500,000 for breaches of regulations on unwanted calls, texts and emails.

Consumer groups have called for an overhaul of the TPS service.

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