The Chichester-based company was telephoning people to sell a call-blocking service and device to stop unsolicited calls, the same type of calls the company itself was making.
Complaints were received from elderly and vulnerable customers who claimed aggressive cold callers pressed them to take subscriptions to a service that seemed to be the equivalent of the free Telephone Preference Service (TPS). One complainant said the sales person implied they were calling from the statutory TPS. Another said money was taken from their account despite turning down the service and a bank account had to be cancelled to stop the contract.
Over a period of nearly two years, the ICO and the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) received 382 complaints from people who were registered on the TPS. Companies are not allowed by law to call anyone registered on this service unless they have specific consent.
Cold Call Elimination was monitored by the ICO, giving the company a time period in which to improve, but the company ignored the warnings and continued with the calls.
Steve Eckersley, ICO’s Head of Enforcement said:
“This company clearly knew the law, but continued to break it by calling people on the TPS. It’s clear some of the people called by this company were very distressed by the calls and as some of the people receiving the calls were elderly or vulnerable this was an aggravating factor. This monetary penalty has been issued to make sure that Cold Call Elimination realise that it is unacceptable to operate in this way. It should also be a warning to other companies that we will act if companies are found to be breaking the law.
“It’s ironic that the products they were trying to sell should have blocked the very calls they were making.”
The ICO has published detailed guidance for companies carrying out marketing – explaining their legal requirements under the Data Protection Act and the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations. 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.
For additional information on ICO visit their Website
As Steve Eckersley commented, “It’s ironic that the products they were trying to sell should have blocked the very calls they were making.” I Couldn’t have put it better! – Ed