In the last week the ICO has issued fines totaling £225,000 to two companies operating call centres in the UK.

The message from the ICO to nuisance callers is clear: people have the legal right to avoid marketing calls, and if you disregard this right you will be hit in the pocket – hard!

Whether it be, PPI claims, window glazing, utility suppliers, mobile phone networks, etc, direct marketing is a popular tool for a number of businesses and, despite the irritation of many (why do they always call when you're eating your dinner?), can be a perfectly legal means of attracting customers and selling various products and services.

Whether an unwanted call is considered legal, will generally boil down to a couple of factors:

  1. The recipient of the call has given consent. Usually such consent will derive from a consumer ticking a box on a website confirming that they have read and agree to certain terms and conditions (some of which will relate to intrusive marketing initiatives). Given the apparent apathy of the public to locate and thereafter review long (and sometimes complex) terms and conditions at the point of e.g. finalising an online purchase, this matter is due to be the subject of parliamentary scrutiny in the coming months.
  2. The caller has carried out adequate checks to identify if the prospective recipient is registered with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS). The TPS is the official central opt-out register and allows people to record their preference not to receive unsolicited sales or marketing calls. Anyone who conducts electronic marketing is obliged to process this check prior to cold-calling and, quite simply, if your number is on the list then any unwarranted call is illegal (and the ICO should be notified via their online reporting facility).

Tackling the issue of unwarranted marketing calls is a priority for the ICO. Accordingly, the ICO will continue to investigate and take enforcement action (including fines where significant distress has been caused) against those organisations that are persistent offenders in respect of illegal calls.