Nuisance call fines increase threefold

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Fines by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) against nuisance call firms have increased by more than three times this year.

The watchdog imposed fines of £1.14m for nuisance calls and texts compared with £330,000 of penalties in 2014.

It comes after a change to the law in April made it easier to penalise firms.

The biggest fines were for companies selling pharmaceuticals, call blocking services and payment protection insurance (PPI) compensation.

From April, the ICO only had to demonstrate calls and messages were a "nuisance" rather than the cause of "serious damage and distress".

An ICO spokesman told the BBC the lower threshold helped "enormously" in bringing more fines.

The regulator received 170,000 complaints this year and has made unsolicited calls one of its top priorities.

'The law is clear'

Andy Currey of the ICO said the regulator had another 90 investigations in the pipeline with fines likely to total £1m.

Mr Currey said: "The law is clear around what is allowed, and we've been clear that we will fine companies who don't follow the law. That will continue in 2016."

Help Direct UK, a Swansea-based call centre, was fined £200,000 after sending thousands of spam texts for PPI claims, bank refunds and loans, prompting almost 7,000 complaints in one month.

Two firms selling call blocking services, Cold Call Eliminations and Point One Marketing, were fined £75,000 and £50,000 respectively.

Other penalties included £200,000 for a solar panels company that made six million nuisance calls, and £130,000 for Pharmacy 2U for selling customer details to marketing companies.

Last month, the ICO sent over 1,000 letters to companies involved in buying and selling personal data to check they were acting lawfully.

Richard Lloyd, executive director of consumer watchdog Which? said: "Millions of people are still being plagued with nuisance calls so it's good to see more firms being fined for flouting the rules.

"However we also need to see further action including much tougher penalties for senior executives of companies making unlawful calls including board directors being held personally accountable."

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