A claims management company that made 17.5m automated calls over just six months, asking people if they had suffered hearing loss at work, has been fined £250,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
The decision was announced as new rules came into force yesterday that require cold callers to display their phone number.
The ICO found that of the calls made by Blackburn-based Check Point Claims Ltd between March and September 2015, 6.4m were connected.
It launched an investigation after receiving 248 complaints, while the Telephone Preference Service also received 50 complaints. The gist of the complaints was that the calls were sent at inconvenient times, such as evenings and weekends, often repeatedly and that the complainants had not worked in a noisy environment as claimed in the recorded message.
Check Point told the ICO that it had purchased ‘opted-in’ data from a data provider, and that it was unaware that the law required them to provide those it called with details of who they were and how they could be contacted.
The ICO also concluded that Check Point had not provided sufficient evidence that call recipients had consented to receive them.
The fine is half of the maximum that the ICO can levy under the Data Protection Act 1998.
Stephen Eckersley, head of enforcement at the ICO, said: “Nuisance calls are bad enough, but picking up the phone to a recorded message can be the most frustrating and intrusive thing of all.
“That’s why the law is so strict – it’s there to protect consumers and in practice it’s very difficult to make a legal automated marketing call.”
Companies making calls that play a recorded message can only do so if they have gained specific permission from people to make that type of call. Companies must also identify themselves within the message. Check Point Claims Ltd did neither.
Check Point Claims has gone into liquidation. The ICO said that “while this creates a challenge in recovering the fine”, it was looking to use the insolvency regime to pursue money owed.
Mr Eckersley said: “Even companies that have stopped trading or try to get themselves struck off cannot escape because we will use all means available to chase the debt.”