A Hampshire company behind millions of nuisance calls regarding road traffic accidents has been fined £270,000 by the Information Commissioner's Office.
The ICO's investigation into the business traced more than 22 million automated nuisance calls to Basingstoke-based business Road Accident Consult, trading as Media Tactics. Its calls related to a variety of subjects including PPI, personal injury claims and debt management.
Under marketing law, automated calls that play a recorded message can only be made to people who have specifically agreed to receive such calls. The ICO found that Media Tactics did not have the necessary permission for the 22 million calls it had made, and as such had broken the law.
Steve Eckersley, the ICO's head of enforcement, said: "These 22 million pre-recorded calls will have left many people feeling frustrated. But some people found them alarming and distressing – we heard from one complainant who found the calls depressing and another who was too frightened to answer any calls at all."
The investigation was sparked by 182 complaints made to the ICO's online reporting tool. Media Tactics told the ICO's enforcement team that it had bought data from other firms and believed the people on the lists had consented to being contacted.
The phone numbers, it turned out, had been harvested from a range of websites including discount and prize draw websites, pay-day loans and insurance brokers and an electronic cigarette seller. People using those websites had agreed to their details being shared with "third parties whose offers we think might interest you".
However, the ICO found that the privacy notices on the websites were generic and unspecific, with some including long lists of general categories of organisations to whom the data would be disclosed including astrology, debt collection, fashion and leisure, legal services and general marketing.
As a result, the ICO found that consents obtained were not adequate. Eckersley added: "Media Tactics fell short of the mark when it treated consent as an administrative box-ticking exercise. Proper consent gives consumers control over how their information is used. The people targeted by Media Tactics were not given that control.
"From next May, a new data protection law will give people even stronger rights around consent giving them genuine choice and control over how their data will be used."
The fine follows another £250,000 demand by the ICO last year from spam caller Check Point Claims, which had illegally harassed people with automated calls encouraging them to claim compensation for job-related hearing loss.
In addition to the £270,000 fine, which is one of the highest fines the ICO has ever issued for nuisance calls, Media Tactics has also been given a legal notice compelling it to stop making unlawful calls. Failure to comply with this could result in court action. ®