In an ongoing effort to tackle nuisance calls, the UK government has signalled its intention to make company directors directly liable for breaches of the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PERC) carried out by their firms. These fines will be in addition to any fines ordered against the firm itself.
Deemed a growing problem that, in particular, targets elderly and vulnerable sections of society, the Minister of State for Digital and Culture Matt Hancock emphasised that the new amendment will hand the ICO more agile and robust punitive powers.
“We have joined forces with consumer groups and regulators, such as the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), to stop nuisance callers. It used to be the case that the ICO had to prove a nuisance call had caused ‘substantial damage or substantial distress.’ Not anymore.”
Under the current legal regime, the ICO has often found it difficult to take effective action against those running nuisance call companies. When faced with enforcement action, company directors have often put their company into liquidation to avoid fines, and then set up another company under a different name.
The new amendment
The government proposal will give the ICO the power to hold company directors directly responsible. Company directors will each face fines of up to £500,000 for breaches of PERC that are committed by their company, on top of penalties issued directly against the company.
To date, the ICO reports that nearly £3.7 million in fines have been levied against companies involved in nuisance marketing, with £1.8 million of those fines handed out this year alone. This year’s fines were in respect of over 70 million calls and roughly 8 million spam text messages, with more than 100,000 nuisance calls and texts.
The new amendment has been heralded by industry insiders as a “massive victory” for consumers supporting the campaign against nuisance callers. As one director of Which? commented, “This legislation will stop rogues dodging fines for bombarding consumers with nuisance call and side-stepping the rules by closing one business and re-establishing a new one.”
A word of warning…
As the Minister of State for Digital and Culture cautioned, “We’re sending out a stark message to those bosses and companies which continue to flout the rules: we’ve got your number, and we’re coming for you!”