Who: Information Commissioner’s Office (“ICO“)
When: 8 November 2016
Law stated as at: 23 October 2016
Since April 2015, the Information Commissioner’s Office (the “ICO”) has issued more than £2.7 million in fines to companies behind nuisance calls and spam text messages. This year alone, companies responsible for more than 70 million nuisance calls and almost 8 million text messages have been penalised by the ICO. However, only 6 of the 27 fines issues have been paid in full, leaving a total of £2.26 million in unpaid fines.
From Spring 2017, the Government plans to crack down on the directors behind these nuisance calls, holding them personally liable and tackling the trend of using liquidation as a means for companies to escape paying fines. A statement of intent from the Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham reinforces the ICO’s objective to prevent directors “leaving by the back door as the regulator comes through the front door”.
The changes will be introduced through amendments to the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003. Directors will be capable of personally facing fines of up to £500,000 if they are found to be in breach of the rules. This is in addition to the fines imposed on the company, which is currently capped at £500,000.
Once the new rules are implemented, the ICO will consider each fine on a case-by-case basis; determining whether it should apply to the company, the directors, or both.
In the meantime, the ICO will continue to work with professionals and the courts to pursue outstanding fines in line with the UK’s insolvency regime.
Why this matters:
These new rules reflect the tough stance the ICO is taking in its on-going battle against nuisance callers.
The changes give added credence to the fines issued by the ICO to tackle the companies responsible. They should make it much more difficult for those rogue directors who currently side-step the fines, by closing down one company, only to open up another under a different name.
Directors cannot flout the responsibility they have to ensure that their companies follow the rules and consumers are protected.