UK

Nuisance call bosses to face £500,000 fines

Woman on phone Image copyright Thinkstock

Company directors could be fined up to £500,000 if their business is behind nuisance phone calls, under government moves to clamp down on the problem.

The law is to be changed in Spring 2017 to make directors personally liable for breaches of regulations.

At the moment only firms can be fined for ignoring rules on cold calling, but many declare bankruptcy - only to open up again under a different name.

Consumer group Which? said it was a "massive victory".

Companies offering to help to reclaim mis-sold payment protection insurance or with accident claims are behind some of the most common nuisance calls.

The change will mean the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) would be able to impose combined penalties of up to £1m on company directors and their businesses for breaches of the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations.

The ICO has issued fines totalling almost £3.7m to companies behind nuisance calls and spam text messages.

Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said companies behind the calls have "little regard for the anxiety and upset they cause all in the name of turning a fast profit".

"We are inundated with complaints from people who are left shaken and distressed by the intrusion on their daily lives," she added.


How to deal with cold callers

Do:

  • Ask cold callers to remove your information from their records
  • Find out caller's number from a landline by dialling 1471 after the call
  • Check with your phone company if you can be made ex-directory

Don't:

  • Give away personal or financial information, even if callers claim to be from a company you know
  • Lose your temper. Be firm and hang up if the caller refuses to go away
  • Call back phone numbers left on your voicemail, or reply to text messages you don't recognise

Source: BBC Skillswise


Which? has campaigned on the issue and its managing director of home and legal services Alex Neill said "the government has listened to consumers".

"This legislation will stop rogues dodging fines for bombarding consumers with nuisance calls and side-stepping the rules by closing one business and re-establishing a new one."

Digital and culture minister Matt Hancock said: "Nuisance callers are a blight on society, causing significant distress to elderly and vulnerable people.

"We have been clear that we will not stand for this continued harassment and this latest amendment to the law will strike another blow to those businesses and company bosses responsible."

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