Fines totalling £152,500 have been visited on four businesses involved in making alleged ‘silent calls’ while the Information Commission has slapped enforcement notices on five telemarketers allegedly abusing ‘Do not call’ rules.
Who: The Information Commissioner's Office and Ofcom
When: December 2006
The two UK bodies principally concerned with enforcing laws and regulations controlling telemarketing activity continued to turn up the pressure on businesses to toe the line.
Ofcom took further steps in its ongoing campaign against "silent calls." Silent calls occur when consumers answer calls made by automated dialling systems. Because the process is automated, the call is sometimes answered before the system has had time to route the line through to a person, hence the silent line.
In November 2006 Ofcom informed 4 businesses including Carphone Warehouse and IDT Direct (trading as Toucan) that they were repeatedly breaching the "no more than 3% silent calls in any 24 hour period" limit and that consideration would be given to fining them up to £50,000 under the persistent misuse of telecoms systems provisions of the Communications Act 2003.
The companies were given until 6 December 2006 to make representations after which Ofcom would consider what action was appropriate. Then in late January 2007 it slapped fines on all four totalling £152,000.
Ofcom silent calls programme extended
On 12 December 2006 Ofcom also announced that silent calls continued to be a priority and that Ofcom's current programme of monitoring and enforcement would be extended for a further six months.
ICO calls time on unwanted calls
In 6 December 2007 the Information Commissioner's Office ("ICO") announced that it had served Enforcement Notices on five companies including Toucan and Zenith Windows.
The Notices required the recipients to stop telephoning individuals for direct marketing purposes who had already either expressly told the companies they did not wish to be contacted or registered their telephone numbers with the Telephone Preference Service.
Four of the companies had asked callers to ring another number if they did not want to be called again. This practice is unacceptable since it is the responsibility of the company making such calls to ensure it holds accurate records of those people who do not wish to be called.
Failure to comply with an Enforcement Notice is a criminal offence, although a recipient can appeal the Notice and the matter can be dragged on for many months and all the way to the doors of the Information Tribunal, where out of court settlements involving the company promising to behave, can normally be thrashed out, mostly involving no or no substantive financial penalty.
Why this matters:
To date, effective enforcement action against telemarketers in respect of relevant data privacy and telemarketing law infringements has simply not occurred on any consistent basis in the UK. These actions by the two key regulators are a solid step in the right direction.