What does this cover?

Update on joint ICO and Ofcom communications plan

In January 2013 Ofcom teamed up with the ICO to work together on a strategy to tackle nuisance communications (which include texts, emails and calls) which included the preparation of an action plan that sought to reduce "the increasing level[s] of consumer harm being caused" (the Plan).  Ofcom and the ICO have now issued a report titled 'Tackling nuisance calls and messages: update on the ICO and Ofcom Joint Action Plan' (the Report).

The Report highlights the progress made during 2015 and confirms that the ICO and Ofcom will continue to work together to improve nuisance call tracing and effective co-ordination in the sharing of intelligence and the carrying out of enforcement action. The priority areas for 2016 include:

  • Broadening its intelligence sharing resources;
  • Promoting greater awareness of the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) to the public; and
  • Working with communication providers to develop and refine technical measures to prevent nuisance calls reaching the consumers in the first place.  

To view the ICO / Ofcom update Report, please click here.

Ofcom seeks input for revisions to its persistent misuse powers policy

In a related move by Ofcom, the regulatory body for communications has issued a consultation seeking views on potential revisions and updates to its "persistent misuse powers policy"  which covers Ofcom's powers to "take action if a person persistently misuses an electronic communications network or service'".

Those updates suggested by Ofcom include:

  • The setting out of "a list of factors we [Ofcom] are likely to regard as aggravating misuse where it occurs";
  • Incorporating "a more general principle that cases of repeated misuse in respect of the same telephone number or, in some cases, call recipient are likely to involve greater harm and to be higher priorities for action"; and
  • "where an organisation engages third parties to make calls on its behalf, we may consider whether that organisation took reasonable steps to monitor and assess compliance by the third party on an ongoing basis, beyond the acceptance of assurances or the imposition of contractual obligations…These proposals are intended to ensure calling organisations put in place effective management procedures to help reduce instances of misuse and the harm they cause to consumers".

The consultation is open for responses until 5pm on 10 February 2016.

To view the Ofcom consultation document, please click here.

What action could be taken to manage risks that may arise from this development?

Organisations should continue to ensure that any vendors engaged, particularly to carry out communications activities, are compliant with PECR and DPA in all communications. The indication from Ofcom's proposal is that under its persistent misuse power proposals there will soon be a much stricter stance taken against organisations employing third parties to undertake non-compliant calls on its behalf.