A firm promising to generate leads for businesses has been fined £70,000 for making more than 100,000 nuisance calls – although it has denied using automatic dialling.
The UK Information Commissioner's Office investigated (PDF) Liverpool-based firm The Lead Experts following a series of complaints from people who had not agreed to receive automated calls.
It ruled that The Lead Experts was responsible for making 115,341 calls through a dialling platform on May 4-5, 2016, of which 111,072 connected.
The ICO initially served the DXI comms platform with a third-party information notice to find out which firm was behind the calls.
DXI's information rumbled The Lead Experts and the ICO twice got in touch with the firm – in December 2016 and then March 2017 – to express concerns that it was not complying with the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations.
In response, The Lead Experts denied using automatic dialling, and told the ICO that its "only experience with DXI was that of buying a small batch of test leads of which we only dialled a small amount due to the quality not being very good".
However, DXI then provided the ICO with a copy of a signed order form for The Lead Experts, as well as two audio files that were to be played on the calls – these were offers for energy savings of up to £600.
It also offered up email correspondence between the two firms, which showed The Lead Experts supplying numbers to be loaded onto the dialler, instructions on how to direct any leads generated back to the biz and confirmation that 161 leads had been generated, at a cost of £102.
When the ICO wrote to The Lead Experts again, on May 22 this year, asking it to explain the new information, the firm never responded – and two months later it filed an application to strike the outfit off Companies House register.
This move makes it less likely the ICO will be able to collect the money from the company, but the watchdog stressed that it is "committed to recovering fines" and plans to work with the liquidators if the firm moves to insolvency.
Noting the company's attempts to deny responsibility, the ICO's head of enforcement, Steve Eckersley, said in a statement: "Companies cannot hide behind paying another firm to make the calls for them. They must take responsibility and, ultimately accept the consequences if they break the law."