Home improvement marketers dial up trouble from regulator

ICO slaps penalties on two businesses that collectively made more than 3 million cold calls

Another week and yet another couple of pesky cold callers face fines from the UK's data privacy watchdog for "bombarding" unsuspecting households with marketing messages about home improvements.

In the hot seat this week are London-based Poxell Ltd and Skean Homes Ltd in Bournemouth after both were found to have illegally tapped up folk registered with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS), meaning they shouldn't be included in the list of marks targeted with marketing.

Poxell, which specializes in energy saving products including double glazing and resin driveways, is being penalized to the tune of £150,000 by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) for making 2.6 million marketing calls between March and July 2022, resulting in 413 complaints to the data regulator.

Some of those who complained said a "very aggressive" salesperson at Poxell had repeatedly called. The ICO claims the company had bought several telephone lines "in a bid to avoid detection," didn't engage with the investigation, and kept on making unlawful marketing calls until their "account was finally terminated by their communications service provider."

Skean Homes is nursing a fine of £100,000 for making more than 600,000 unsolicited marketing calls between March and May 2022, again to people that were signed up to the TPS.

The company didn't take responsibility for the calls and told the ICO they had "allowed their lead generation provider to temporarily use their caller identities (CLIs) and that TPS checks failed due to a technical error." The ICO said it found no evidence that a third party was using CLIs when those phone numbers were dialed.

It is strictly prohibited to call people registered with TPS and both companies were found to have flouted the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulation 2003, which houses the rules for businesses wanting to make direct marketing calls.

Andy Curry, head of investigations at the ICO, said: "People register with the TPS for a clear reason: to stop unwanted marketing contact and protect their privacy. Both these companies have not only broken the law by failing to check the 'do not call' register, but also caused distress and disruption to those they bombarded with unwanted and unlawful calls.

"These fines should send a clear message that companies cannot use third parties or multiple phone numbers to avoid detection and taking responsibility for illegal calls. We will take decisive action to ensure the public are protected from nuisance marketing."

Clearly these fines don't send a message to cold callers and El Reg expects to cover more instances in the not too distant future. ®

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