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Make nuisance calls and you'll be fined, companies warned

Wednesday, December 30th 2015 by Ellen Branagh

Companies that make nuisance calls can expect hefty fines in 2016, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has warned.

The ICO said it imposed more than a million pounds worth of penalties for nuisance calls and text messages in 2015, and has the same amount in the pipeline for early 2016.

The information watchdog received around 170,000 concerns in 2015 from people who had received nuisance calls and texts. It received 175,330 in 2014.

PPI claims sparked the most complaints, followed by accident claims, the ICO said.

Calls from call blocking services, oven cleaning services and industrial hearing injury claims also became more prevalent.

The ICO handed out a total of £1.135m in fines related to nuisance marketing in 2015, including £400,000 for nuisance texts, £575,000 for nuisance calls, £130,000 for selling customer records for marketing, and £30,000 for sending a marketing email.

The fines included £295,000 to companies offering call blocking or nuisance call prevention services, as well as a £200,000 fine to a solar panels company that made six million nuisance calls.

An £80,000 fine was also handed to a PPI claims firm that sent 1.3m text messages.

ICO enforcement group manager Andy Curry said: “Nuisance marketing calls frustrate people.

“The law is clear around what is allowed, and we’ve been clear that we will fine companies who don’t follow the law.

“That will continue in 2016. We’ve got 90 ongoing investigations, and a million pounds worth of fines in the pipeline.”

The ICO said some of the complaints showed the level of distress that nuisance calls can cause, including people whose parents suffering with dementia had fallen victim to them.

The Information Commissioner's Office upholds information rights in the UK and has the power to impose a monetary penalty up to £500,000.

Cold calls

The warning comes after research revealed earlier this month that Britons waste more than 15 hours a year dealing with nuisance calls, texts and spam emails, new research revealed earlier this month.

A YouGov survey of more than 2,000 adults, commissioned by the National Accident Helpline, found that 15.24 hours a year are wasted a year, equivalent to six weeks (40 days) across their adult lives.

Almost eight hours a year is wasted through deleting spam emails, and nearly five hours through answering nuisance calls.

70% of people have been interrupted by a cold call while doing something important – nearly half (46%) of these when spending time with family and 24% during a sensitive conversation.

People also reported being interrupted by a nuisance call during a funeral, when handling live wires, whilst operating a chainsaw and even whilst giving birth.

And in May, an Ofcom report found that nuisance phone calls are a problem for more than four in five UK adults with a landline.

The telecoms regulator found that 86% of those participating in its study experienced a nuisance call in a four-week period.

Those who received nuisance calls received an average of about 10 in the four-week period, just over two a week.

Three in 10 (32%) received more than 10 nuisance calls in the four weeks, and 12% received more than 20 such calls.

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