Britain’s data watchdog has slapped financial penalties totaling £435,000 (c $529,000) on five companies it says collectively made almost half of million marketing calls to people registered with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS).
Under local laws, it is illegal for businesses to make live marketing calls to anyone who is signed up the TPS.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) says the offenders include Applianceservices UK Ltd (AUKL), Boiler Cover Breakdown Ltd (BCBL), Boiler Breakdown Ltd (BBL), Repair Plans UK Ltd (RPUK), and Utility Guard Ltd (UGL).
To be made to feel as though you have to hand over your bank details simply to get someone off the phone is nothing short of shameful
Andy Curry, head of ICO investigations, said: “We will not stop investigating and taking robust action against companies, to protect people and especially the vulnerable, where we find blatant disregard for the law.”
The probe by the team at the ICO found, in certain instances, the companies were homing in on specific demographics, namely homeowners aged 60 and over.
Based in Brighton, AUKL UK was behind 99,313 unsolicited direct marketing calls to TPS users between the start of January 2021 and towards the end of June in the same year. It was fined £85,000 (c $103,000).
The ICO said it became aware of the business via the Financial Conduct Authority, and claimed it “appeared” to use pressure tactics to get payment card details. One of the people called had reduced capacity after a stroke and one had dementia.
Also based in Brighton is RPUK, which made 21,347 marketing calls over a little less than the months ending 7 September. It expressly bought data on people aged 60 and over, the ICO claims, and made false and misleading statement during its marketing calls.
The ICO found one incident in which RPUK had needlessly taken £180 from a person’s bank account. It was fined £70,000 and issued with an enforcement notice, and has 30 days to comply.
BCBL made 9,075 marketing calls between January and August 2020, and BBL made 348,724 nuisance calls, the ICO claimed. Both companies are registered at the same address, share the same directors and the phone lines are rented by one company and used by the two companies.
The ICO claimed both were “specifically” targeting vulnerable people, and fined BCBL £120,000 (c $146,000) and BBL £140,000 (c $170,000). It issued them with an enforcement notice. The two businesses have appealed the monetary value of the penalty notices.
The final name in the rogues gallery is UGL, situated in Chichester, West Sussex. The ICO said it made 1,932 calls between August 2020 and July 2021. UGL did not have a TPS license and took money from someone with dementia. It showed a “willful disregard” for the law, and was fined £20,000 and must comply with the enforcement notice.
“The pressure tactics, and sometimes false or misleading statements these companies used were completely unacceptable. To be made to feel as though you have to hand over your bank details simply to get someone off the phone is nothing short of shameful, and that is why we have taken action against these companies,” said Curry. ®