Thursday, May 30, 2024
Home > ICO > ICO fines two companies a total of £340,000 for making aggressive and unwanted marketing calls

ICO fines two companies a total of £340,000 for making aggressive and unwanted marketing calls

 

  • Almost 1.43 million calls made over a 13-month period
  • Recipients of phone calls all on the UK’s “do not call” register
  • Evidence of elderly and vulnerable people being targeted.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has fined Cardiff-based Outsource Strategies Ltd (OSL) £240,000 and London-based Dr Telemarketing Ltd (DRT) £100,000 after the companies made a total of almost 1.43 million calls to people on the UK’s “do not call” register, the Telephone Preference Service (TPS).

The calls, all made between 11 February 2021 and 22 March 2022, resulted in 76 complaints to the ICO and the TPS. People who complained said the callers were aggressive and used high-pressure sales tactics to persuade them to sign up for products. The ICO investigation also found evidence that both companies were specifically targeting elderly and vulnerable people.

Andy Curry, ICO Head of Investigations, said:

“All the people targeted by these nuisance calls should not have been called in the first place. They had all taken action to protect themselves by registering with the UK’s “do not call” register.

“It is unacceptable they were repeatedly interrupted and subjected to aggressive and unpleasant marketing, particularly as some of the victims told us they were people with vulnerabilities. I would like to thank those who took the time to report to us, as this helped our investigation to bring these two companies to account.

“All companies engaging in direct marketing should take note. If you flout the law, you can expect the ICO to use the full force of its regulatory powers against you.

“And, as in this case, it doesn’t matter how complicated the network of companies and individuals are, we will work through the evidence to find and take action against the perpetrators of these unlawful calls to protect the public.”

Details of the unwanted calls

“My husband took the call. He has communication difficulties – he is vulnerable and doesn’t understand not to answer the telephone. I suspect he has been sold stuff by these companies in the past. For health reasons, I need to stop them ringing …”

“We’ve requested numerous times to be taken off the list but to no avail. The telephone number today is one of several different numbers that they use. This has now become harassment of two senior citizens.”

“Tried to get me to join the Irish lottery and probably wanted my bank details. It made me annoyed and … anxious. I’m getting sick up to the back teeth of these types of calls. I even get them on my UNLISTED [sic] number.”

“… He had all my personal details which he said he had got from [redacted] … He was trying to persuade me to buy cut-price lottery tickets for the Irish Lottery … I said I would not give any card details over the phone as I had no way of checking where he was calling from. I asked him to send me an email so I could carry out due diligence on this offer and the company. He said he could not do that unless I bought the tickets first. I was not prepared to do this and so ended the call. When I checked the number, Google seemed to suggest this number is associated with a scam company. I was concerned because [redacted] … target older people who could get confused and be talked into something like this more easily.”

Details of each fine

Outsource Strategies Ltd, based in Cardiff, made 1,346,503 unwanted marketing calls between 11 February 2021 and 22 March 2022 to numbers registered with the TPS. The ICO received 74 complaints from people variously saying they received repeated calls despite requests to stop and that the callers were aggressive. 

During the investigation, OSL blamed TPS screening responsibility on its contracted partners and stated it also had internal systems in place to ensure this did not happen. The ICO found this to be incorrect, as 141,914 calls were still made to people marked as “do not call” on its own systems. 

The investigation also uncovered that OSL Directors were involved with a separate company previously fined by the ICO. OSL has also been issued with an enforcement notice. OSL has appealed the monetary penalty notice and the enforcement notice.

Dr Telemarketing Ltd, based in London, made 80,240 unwanted marketing calls between 11 February 2021 and 22 March 2022 to numbers registered with the TPS. A total of two complaints were received. The highly exploitative unwanted calls were all made regarding Lotto Express and were targeted at vulnerable people to maximise profit. 

During the investigation, the ICO uncovered what appeared to be a network of five people and eight companies all involved in deliberately making the unwanted calls. DRT argued opt-in details were supplied by its business partner and screening was provided by another company. The ICO found there was no mechanism in place to identify and mitigate against making unwanted calls and that screening was not contracted to cover all the data providers involved. 

Despite repeated attempts to communicate with the company, DRT stopped engaging with the ICO during the investigation and failed to provide a satisfactory explanation for the Lotto Express calls. DRT has also been issued with an enforcement notice. DRT has not paid the fine or appealed the notice therefore the ICO is commencing financial recovery action.

ICO’s work to tackle nuisance communications 

The ICO enforces the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003 (PECR), which cover the rules for organisations wishing to make direct marketing calls, texts or emails. 

The ICO’s direct marketing guidance makes it clear that organisations acquiring marketing lists from a third party must undertake rigorous checks to satisfy themselves that the personal information was obtained fairly and lawfully.

Organisations must:

  • explain to people why they want to use their information;
  • tell people if they will share information with other organisations; and
  • make people aware of their data protection rights.

The ICO has issued more than £2.59 million in fines against companies responsible for nuisance calls, texts and emails since April 2023. Some of these investigations began with a single complaint from a member of the public. 
 
For more information about the ICO’s work to tackle nuisance calls, emails and texts visit our webspage about nuisance calls

Advice for the public 

To help you, your friends and relatives stop receiving unlawful marketing calls, texts or emails you can: 

  • Register landlines and mobile numbers with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) and the Corporate Telephone Preference Service (CTPS) free of charge. The TPS and CTPS is a register used by legitimate marketing companies to identify people and businesses that have said they don’t want to receive marketing calls. Alternatively, you can tell the company directly that you do not wish to be contacted. 
  • Report the receipt of unsolicited marketing text messages received on your mobile to the Mobile UK’s Spam Reporting Service by forwarding the message to 7726. 
  • Refer concerns that you or someone you know has been the victim of fraud to Action Fraud (in England, Northern Ireland and Wales) and Police Scotland (in Scotland). You can refer wider concerns about a business’ practices to Trading Standards. Report any abandoned calls that you receive to Ofcom
  • Ask your telephone network about call blocking solutions they may be able to offer. Many of these services are provided free of charge.
  • Report nuisance calls, texts or emails to the ICO via our website


Notes to editors  

  1. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is the UK’s independent regulator for data protection and information rights law, upholding 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 (DPA2018), the United Kingdom General Data Protection Regulation (UK GDPR), the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA), Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR), Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003 (PECR) and a further five acts and regulations.  
  3. The ICO can take action to address and change the behaviour of organisations and individuals that collect, use and keep personal information. This includes criminal prosecution, non-criminal enforcement and audit.  
  4. To report a concern to the ICO telephone our helpline 0303 123 1113 or go to  ico.org.uk/concerns. 

 


 

 

Original Source