The UK Information Commissioner’s Office fined two companies who were breaking regulations.

Home Energy and Lifestyle Management Limited (HELM)

HELM has been fined £200,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Officer further to breaking marketing call regulations. Six million automated calls were made offering ‘free’ solar panels resulting in 242 complaints in two months. HELM did not have permission to make automated and were misleading calls. The company acknowledged that they did not understand the rules.

The ICO’s Head of Enforcement said: “This company’s ignorance of the law is beyond belief. It didn’t even bother to find out what the rules were and its badly thought out marketing campaign made people’s lives a misery. The monetary penalty is for a significant amount because of the clear failings of the company, and the number of people affected by its deliberate and unlawful campaign.

“It should be a warning to other companies to thing before they launch into a campaign. Direct marketing campaigns can be run within the law with a little thought and there’s plenty of advice available to companies in the ICO’s website.”

Commentary on the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) website referenced the penalty:

“While this is very welcome, it does not address the fact that directors of companies can, and do put companies into liquidation to avoid financial penalties for non-compliance, and then simply start new ones…

“…the public, politicians, civil servants and bureaucrats in Europe do not draw lines between calls that break TPS rules, SPAM email, rogue SMS, and direct offers that do not meet CAP rules. They lump them all in together as a nuisance and demand action, and not of the lightweight variety.

Cold Call Elimination Limited

Cold Call Elimination Limited has been fined £75,000 for making unsolicited marketing calls to sell cold call blocking devices to block the type of calls it was itself making. Elderly and vulnerable individuals complained after receiving aggressive cold calls from what they believed to be an equivalent of the Telephone Preference Service (TPS).

The ICO’s Head of Enforcement commented: “This company clearly knew the law but continued to break it by called people on the TPS. It’s clear some of the people called by this company were very distressed by the calls and as some of the people receiving the calls were elderly or vulnerable this was an aggravating factor. This monetary penalty has been issued to make sure that Cold Call Elimination realise that it is unacceptable to operate in this way. It should also be a warning to other companies that we will act if companies are found to breaking the law.  “It’s ironic that the products they were trying to sell should have blocked the very calls they were making.”

Hopefully the lessons learned from these cases will make others think twice before starting ill-conceived marketing campaigns.

Regulatory StrategiesSource:  Regulatory Strategies UK Data Protection Newsletter September 2015  To read the full report click on this link: SEP15-newsletter