The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has fined Home Energy & Lifestyle Management Ltd (HELM) an official provider of Green Deal; a Government backed energy saving initiative £200,000 after ruling it deliberately broke marketing call regulations. The investigation discovered that HELM made over 6 million calls as part of a automated call marketing campaign aimed at offering ‘free’ solar panels. HELM has been issued with a penalty notice by virtue of regulation 19 of the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 (PECR) , the fine being the largest of its kind awarded in the UK.
In just over two months, from 2 October to 12 December 2014 the ICO received 242 complaints about automated marketing calls made by HELM to the general public. The calls, whilst advertising HELM 's offer, allowed either an option to press 5 if interested and an option to press 9 to be removed from the list.
The option to suppress was not always effective and many customers were plagued with a series of nuisance calls. The calls were often repeated and it was not always possible to connect to a person. The investigation found that the calls were also misleading because the solar panels were not necessarily free as implied by the recorded message.
The ICO has published detailed guidance for companies carrying out marketing explaining their legal requirements under the Data Protection Act (DPA) and the PECR. The guidance covers the circumstances in which organisations are able to carry out marketing over the phone, by text, by email, by post or by fax. The guidance is available via the ICO website.