Manchester nuisance-call biz fined £150k after ignoring opt-out list

Now fancies being struck off before data watchdog can collect

A sweary Mancunian biz has been fined £150,000 for making almost 64,000 nuisance calls to people who had opted out of automated marketing.

Some 59 complaints were made about Oaklands Assist UK, which made the calls over a two-month period in May to July last year.

The UK's data protection watchdog said the firm was one of the most-complained about organisations during June 2017.

One recipient that asked to be removed from the firm's list said the caller had become "angry and aggressive", while another said they became "extremely abusive" when questioned and "used profane language when hanging up".

The Information Commissioner's Office said that the firm had made a total of 246,459 calls, and some 63,724 were to people who were registered with opt-out database the Telephone Preference Service.

During its investigation, the ICO found Oaklands to be less than helpful. After ignoring requests for information for six months – responding only when the ICO threatened criminal proceedings – it claimed it held "very little" information.

This included having no record of the numbers dialled, the volumes of calls made, details of where it got the data, or any due diligence or contracts with third parties.

"Oaklands Assist were almost thoroughly uncooperative and failed repeatedly throughout the investigation to engage with the Commissioner," the report (PDF) said.

"When Oaklands Assist did respond they provided vague and obstructive answers."

The ICO can levy up to £500,000 on firms making unsolicited direct marketing calls under the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR), and doled out a £150,000 fine in this case.

However, it seems the biz will try and worm out of paying: its accounts are overdue by almost a year and the ICO said it had had to object to Oaklands Assist being struck off the Companies House register.

This is a common tactic employed by nuisance-call firms, and is largely responsible for the ICO's poor collection rates – an El Reg analysis this year found that, between 2010 and March 2018, just £2.2m of the £8.5m fines handed out under PECR were paid back.

For this reason – and to ensure the directors don't just form another firm and repeat the cycle – the government is planning to make directors personally liable for the fines. ®

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