Following recent action taken by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) marketing firms are advised to remain vigilant in relation to unwanted marketing phone calls.
Since May 1999 residential telephone owners have been entitled to register for free with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) to indicate that they do not wish to receive sales and marketing calls. In addition, the ICO has issued detailed guidance for companies which carry out marketing detailing their legal obligations under the Data Protection Act and the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations.
Under the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations it is illegal for callers who undertake direct marketing to call an individual who has advised the caller that they do not want to receive marketing calls on that line or a telephone line which has been registered with TPS.
For a period of time representatives of Glasgow based DC Marketing were calling individuals to market solar panels partly financed by the Green Deal Home Improvement Fund. Calls were made to lines which were registered with TPS and to individuals who had advised that they did not want to receive further calls. DC Marketing also often failed to give the correct name, if any name at all, to the individuals they called which is a further breach of the legislation governing the activities of marketing callers. The ICO received around 280 complaints in relation to DC Marketing both from individuals and through the TPS system.
Following an investigation into these complaints the ICO has issued an enforcement notice to DC Marketing requesting they stop making illegal calls. DC Marketing callers have also been told to provide the correct name and details of the company when making a call. Should DC Marketing breach the enforcement notice this will be treated as a criminal offence.
In the past year the ICO has issued 4 enforcement notices in relation to unwanted marketing calls and calls to lines registered with TPS. Prior to DC Marketing these enforcement notices involved companies based in England, however, Scottish marketing companies should by no means think that they are excluded from the reach of the ICO, confirmed by Ken Macdonald's strong words:
“The law is clear. Companies must not contact individuals who have asked not to be called." Ken Macdonald, the ICO Assistant Commissioner of Scotland.
These enforcement notices come at a time when the ICO has expressed raised concerns in relation to callers promoting green energy and similar initiatives. Between January and March text messages in relation to the green energy initiative and "scrappage schemes" caused 42% of the concerns raised with the ICO. It would appear green energy calls are set to become the next headache for the ICO following a reduction in complaints about PPI.