When the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) was given enhanced powers on 6th April 2015 allowing action to be taken against companies making nuisance calls and sending spam messages, the whole marketing landscape changed.
Previously, the ICO only had powers to issue a civil monetary penalty if it could be proved that the company behind the marketing had caused ‘substantial damage or distress’. But now this provision has been abolished, it means the ICO can pursue action if it is simply able to prove that a company is in breach of the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003.
The Regulations permit companies to make marketing phone calls to individuals without prior permission being gained. However, they do provide that the call-making company must first make checks via the Telephone Preference Service register so as to make sure the individual has not opted out of generally receiving marketing calls.
When it comes to text messaging, there is a different set of rules. Permission must be expressly acquired before sending marketing text messages and companies must make it absolutely clear to the recipient that they are able to out of receiving future messages, and provide details of how they can do so.
A substantial number of complaints – 175,330 – were made to the ICO concerning nuisance calls during 2014, and penalties were issued between April 2014 and March 2015 totalling £360,000. Now the ICO has enhanced powers, it is predicted that the penalties will start to rise.
How to Handle Unwanted Calls and Messages
Knowledge of the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 is vital for businesses so they can make sure all marketing activity is carried out inside of the law.
Unsolicited telephone calls, silent or dropped calls, pre-recorded marketing messages, spam or scam emails or texts: if you find yourself on the receiving end of any of these as a consumer, you can notify the ICO directly.
As a business, if you are receiving silent or abandoned calls then be aware that it could be a tell-tale signal of toll fraud.