Companies making unwanted marketing calls and texts could be hit with fines of up to £500,000 from 6 April after a change in the law on direct marketing practices.
As it currently stands, the law in relation to cold calling requires the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to prove that a company has caused ‘substantial damage or substantial distress’ by their conduct before any action can be taken. But the Government has said that it will now remove this requirement, from 6 April, allowing the ICO to tackle more cases. In addition, the Government will look at introducing measures to hold board level executives responsible for nuisance calls and texts.
The move has come following calls from a task force late last year which called for a review of how companies could be stopped from making nuisance calls.
“For far too long companies have bombarded people with unwanted marketing calls and texts, and escaped punishment because they did not cause enough harm,” said Ed Vaizey, the Digital Economy Minister.
“This change will make it easier for the Information Commissioner’s Office to take action against offenders and send a clear message to others that harassing consumers with nuisance calls or texts is just not on.”
Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, who chaired the Nuisance Calls Task Force welcomed the announcement.
“We welcome the Government making good on its promise to change the law so it’s easier to prosecute nuisance callers,” he said.
“These calls are an everyday menace blighting the lives of millions so we want the regulator to send a clear message by using their new powers to full effect without delay.”
Information Commissioner Christopher Graham also praised the Government for changing the law.
“The rules around marketing calls have been a licence for spammers and scammers, and people are sick of them. This law change gives consumers the chance to fight back,” he said.
“We still need people to report these calls to us, but now we can use those complaints to better target the companies behind this nuisance.”
Since January 2012, the ICO has taken enforcement action against nine companies for nuisance calls and text messages, hitting them with fines totalling £815,000. Ofcom also has powers to deal with abandoned and silent calls and has fined seven companies totalling £1,618,000 for abandoned and silent calls since 2012.