On the 20th March, the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) handed down a heavy £90,000 fine to a Glasgow-based business for employing illegal telemarketing practices. The company was deemed to have breached the law by failing to check whether the consumers targeted by its campaigns had opted out of receiving marketing calls. The financial penalty was imposed after the ICO and the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) received nearly 2,000 consumer complaints about cold calls from the business.
This fine is the latest in a series of severe penalties issued by the ICO, as they seek to clamp down on illegal marketing campaigns. In November last year, the regulatory body dealt out fines totalling £440,000 to the directors of a company engaged in an illegal campaign that sent hundreds of thousands of unwanted spam texts to consumers.
The ICO’s commitment to meting out these heavy punishments has also been matched by UK communications industry regulator, Ofcom. In 2010, the maximum penalty that Ofcom is able to impose was raised significantly from £50,000 to £2,000,000. In late 2012, the industry regulator began to exercise these powers more liberally, in one case issuing a fine of £750,000 for failure to meet industry standards on silent and abandoned calls.
The tough stance of industry regulators appears set to continue. In recent weeks, the ICO has announced its intention to “impose significant penalties” on two more companies for similar breaches of industry regulations. In every such case, the organisation is empowered to issue substantial fines up to the sum of £500,000. Meanwhile, a further 10 businesses remain under ICO investigation.
“The complexity of dialler systems means that maintaining compliance with industry guidelines can be a technically challenging process,” explains Mushfaqur Rahman, Project Manager at Content Guru, a provider of cloud-based predictive dialler solutions. “As a consequence of this, many companies have historically been lax in ensuring their dialler systems are legally compliant."
Rahman continued: “The current tough stance of industry regulators is now forcing telemarketing businesses to be more rigorous in ensuring that their outbound infrastructure is compliant with the latest standards. This is great news for the consumer, and likely to have a positive long-term effect on the reputation of the contact centre industry as a whole.”