Keurboom Communications Ltd (Keurboom) has been hit with a record fine of £400,000 for making nearly 100 million nuisance calls. The ICO issued the fine, which is equal to its highest ever, following complaints from more than 1,000 people.
Many people complained that they had received multiple automated calls relating to a wide range of subjects from a withheld number and some people even received multiple calls in a day, some of which were made during unsociable hours.
Under the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR), automated calls for the purposes of direct marketing are only permitted if the caller has previously given their consent to such calls. Whereas live calls are possible without consent so long as the recipient hasn’t opted out of receiving the call and hasn’t registered with the TPS. Needless to say, Keurboom did not have consent from any of the complainants to receive such automated calls.
Following receipt of the complaints, the ICO issued several information notices requesting further information on Keurboom’s practices. When Keurboom failed to comply, both the company and its director were prosecuted and fined for failing to provide further information following receipt of such information notices. This was in addition to the monetary penalty issued to the company by the ICO.
Unfortunately it has come to light that the company has now gone into liquidation so the fine and monetary penalty against the company will join the queue of other creditors yet to be paid.
Before the dissolution of parliament, a bill had been introduced which, if passed, would have given the ICO the power to fine directors personally for breaches of PECR. This would have allowed the ICO to go after the directors individually for the monetary fine irrespective of the fact that Keurboom was in the process of being liquidated.
This most recent fine indicates that the ICO is continuing its crusade on direct marketers and is not afraid to maximise its powers by issuing higher fines. This is a timely reminder to companies that they need to take the direct marketing rules seriously and, by ignoring the ICO’s information requests, companies and directors are only going to make the situation worse for themselves.
It is also worth remembering that the ICO will soon be issuing a code of practice on direct marketing which will have statutory weighting (see here). Until then, marketers should continue to follow the ICO’s existing guidance on direct marketing (here) and to keep an eye out for this and ensure that it is closely followed in future direct marketing campaigns.