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Cold calling: record UK fine imposed by data protection regulator

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), the authority responsible for protecting data and privacy rights in the UK, has issued its largest ever fine to Prodial Ltd, a lead generation cold calling company, for making 46 million automated nuisance phone calls.

The Brighton-based company, which was using mass internet calling systems, was the subject of over 1,000 complaints for their automated calls concerning PPI claims. Recipients of the calls complained that they were repeatedly called at all hours of the day with no option to opt-out of further calls. Evidence from further investigations into the company suggest that some of the personal information from these cold calls was later sold to claims management companies.

Regulation 19 of the amended Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 (e-Privacy Regulations) prohibits automated cold calling for direct marketing except where the recipient of the call has subscribed for such and therefore given specific consent.

It is estimated that Prodial Ltd may have made approximately £1 million turnover through its activities, however, since the ICO fine was imposed the company has been placed into voluntary liquidation. The ICO’s enforcement team are working with the liquidators to recover the fine. Christopher Graham, the Information Commissioner, commented that “this is one of the worst cases of cold calling we have ever come across. The volume of calls made in just a few months was staggering”.

WAB Comment

This record-setting fine is yet another clear demonstration of the ICO’s strict stance on enforcing breaches of the e-Privacy Regulations, and this year looks set to equal or exceed the £1.1 million worth of penalties for nuisance calls and text messages issued by the ICO in 2015. Companies engaging in cold calling and other forms of direct marketing would be wise to keep track of the European Commission’s plans to move forward over the coming years with plans to reform the EU e-Privacy regulatory regime including (as with the forthcoming EU data protection reforms) to increase maximum fines significantly.

Disclaimer: This article is produced for and on behalf of White & Black Limited, which is a limited liability company registered in England and Wales with registered number 06436665. It is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. The contents of this article should be viewed as opinion and general guidance, and should not be treated as legal advice.

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