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back to article ICO clamps down on nuisance calls, slaps £90k fine on Glasgow firm

A Glasgow company that deliberately nagged households with nuisance calls has been fined £90,000 by Britain's data protection watchdog. DM Design had annoyed the hell out of thousands of people by making nuisance marketing calls to their home telephone numbers. The Information Commissioner's Office said that the regulator and …

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Mushroom

Feeble

Is there any point warning these companies about forthcoming fines? Doesn't that just give the scumbag directors ample time to shift assets to a safe place?

Until we have a law that gives the ICO power to commandeer a JCB and dig up the offender's incoming lines within 24hrs of the first validated complaint and impound their stupid big white Audis then this sort of activity will carry on. Prosecution and a fine dodged through bankrupcy are just a risk of doing business, and the slow wheels of justice will provide plenty of time for boot-filling and squirreling away.

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Re: Feeble

Too true.

"Today’s action sends out a clear message to the marketing industry that this menace will not be tolerated,"

Yeaj, like fsck it does. £90k is a derisory fine for these scumbags, it's just a slap on the wrist.

Hit them with a £10k per call fine, and ban the directors from being a director of any company again until the total is paid.

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Anonymous Coward

Fines are pointless

Not fines (at least, not fines alone). Fines alone are rarely appropriate in "white collar" crime. There's always some beancounter somewhere willing to move money around for the bad guys, e.g. so they go bankrupt and ultimately don't have to pay the fine. Even disqualification as a company director doesn't help much.

Time inside might be a better deterrent for this kind of scum. And without the option of a (Vicky Pryce style) instant transfer to open prison.

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Anonymous Coward

Do they actually pay up?

And who gets the money?

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Re: Do they actually pay up?

Full details should be available from OfCom or the ICO. But, in general, it's a fine so the money should go into a pot which might be used to provide compensation for victims. For the fairly obvious reason of avoiding people trying it on you don't get money for reporting alleged abuse. If the regulator determines that abuse has taken place then it might be possible to sue for damages, though one of the reasons for the fine-based approach is to avoid suits attempting to obtain excessive damages. I hate nuisance calls and always report them*, fortunately we don't get many in Germany, but they do not generally impose a significant cost. One of the things they do here if someone is adjudged to have committed abuse is to cut their, and by extension, their provider's access to the telephone system. I suspect this, as much as the higher fines introduced last year, is a good deterrent.

* to do this don't slam the phone down, however tempting, but note the details of the call. If there are a lot of calls then you can get the phone company to add a trace, this costs money which may or may not be claimed back, but will allow them to establish the originating network.

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What is the turn over of this company?

What is the affect of 90k? If they have received thousands of complaints, then there will be hundreds of thousands who did not complain. so its a fair bet that this company is laughing right now as the 90k can come from small change

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incomplete penalty

Should have added their genitalia were to be ripped off and Tabasco sauce rubbed onto the bleeding stump.

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Flame

The fault is that caller ID is useless

(1) The "message that this sends" to such companies is that they should not provide caller ID and so get caught. The telephone system is technologically so primitive that it is (the telcos claim) impossible to trace calls. Even when caller ID is provided it can easily be spoofed, because the spec is primitive.

(2) Many organisations (eg the NHS) withhold caller ID as a matter of policy "for security". That is, they consider that it is more secure to get someone involved in a possibly sensitive conversation if they can't distinguish the caller from a complete stranger. So blocking anonymous calls also blocks the important ones.

(3) As I remarked a few weeks go with lots of upvotes, many organisations (eg banks) go to great lengths to mimick the behaviour of criminals, eg by asking for security information in calls that they have initiated.

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Re: The fault is that caller ID is useless

My friend has BT block all calls from 'number withheld' to his landline. The NHS and other gov services are obliged to call him on an identifiable number.

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FAIL

Re: The fault is that caller ID is useless

To all those companies who withhold caller ID - why not set it instead to a central number which has at the very least a recorded message stating who the call was from? Ideally it would be a switchboard staffed by clueful people, but you can't have everything.

Not to mention people like 3 who text you a voicemail notification where the caller ID isn't the right number to call to collect the said voicemail, but is in fact unobtainable? - what idiot thought of that one!

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Unhappy

Re: The fault is that caller ID is useless

It is perfectly possible to have a presentation number other than the originating line. The rules just say that the originating and presentation numbers must belong to the same organisation. So there is no technical reason for Hospitals, Tax Offices, Police Stations, etc. not presenting the number for their man reception desk or switchboard.

It is sheer bloodymindedness for organisations that warn the public about scam calls to then withhold their own numbers.

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Alert

Re: The fault is that caller ID is useless

"The NHS and other gov services are obliged to call him on an identifiable number."

What do you mean? Are they legally obliged to call back with caller ID if their first attempt is rejected?

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Facepalm

**snigger**

PECR? seriously? Did someone not check this before they came up with the title of the law? Or was it deliberate ?

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Coat

Re: **snigger**

Probably deliberate they are trying to convince us they have grown a pair to go with their PECR.

Its their swansong they are finally penalising UK firms but mostly I get calls from 'Reginald' in India nowadays.

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Thumb Down

As well as the ICO issuing "exemplary fines" against these companies I'd like to see the people behind the incessant "reclaim your PPI" and "payday loan" robodiallers/SMS-spams have the rest of their sad and pitiful lives blighted by a combination of enduring pain and the inconvenience of double-incontinence.

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The problem with the PPI pests (etc) is that they won't reveal who they are, so it is very difficult to take action against them. They are only lead generators, they simply pass the lead on to another party.

£90k is a bit tame for a fine. The £440k that Tetrus got hit with is more like it.

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Identifying callers

it is quite easy to find out whos calling - pretend you want their "service" and get something in writing from them.

Although I would agree ... who's got the time ?

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Boffin

Re: Identifying callers

But the people who offer the service (e.g. the PPI Claims Handlers) are not always the people who ring you up (but they are sometimes). A PPI lead can be worth (I believe) about £50 to £200 per lead, so unsurprisingly they is a whole industry of bottom-feeders that just generate the leads and resell them on.

There's an interesting legal point here, and I don't know if it has been tested. If you are illegally cold-called by a lead generation company who then sell the lead onto another party (a claims management company, say), who is liable for the wrongdoing? The claims management firm? The lead generator? Both? Is there joint and several liability? The case of Roberts vs Media Logistics (el Reg has an article here - http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/01/06/spam_court_media_logistics/) does set some sort of precedent for individual action through the small claims court, but I don't know if it has been tested in this scenario.

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Thumb Down

Enduring pain, the inconvenience of double-incontinence and a diet of Spam. A boring, monotonous diet of nothing but Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam. And Spam.

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Mushroom

PPI complaints to the MOJ please!

I recently discovered that PPI companies have to be licenced by the Ministry of Justice. One call to A helpful guy in London was enough to register a complaint. The MOJ have a unit dealing with this - but it seems to be suffering from a lack of publicity - I called out of sheer bloody minded anger.

it would be nice to see some companies lose their licence - and be unable to operate in that field.

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Re: PPI complaints to the MOJ please!

Why did you not provide any details on who to call?

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FAIL

Evidently the crime still pays

These announcements and fines probably have more to do with self-justifying PR than actual deterrence.

Changes in technology make these nuisance calls easier and cheaper to make; it should also be easier and cheaper for the victims to register a complaint and help themselves

For example, you should be able to press a couple of buttons on your phone to signal to the telephone system that the current call is a nuisance, and have the rest happen automatically.

The regulators should stop telecoms companies charging extra for transmitting Caller ID to a customer. The companies are professionally being part of the problem instead of part of the solution. With automatic caller ID and the suppression of anonymous calls, we can install equipment that can download and upload lists of problem numbers.

The regulators should try to manage themselves out of a job as much as possible by enabling the victims to better defend themselves. Is that too much to hope for?

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Anonymous Coward

They aren't a fly-by-night company. They've existed since 1984

I have personal experience with this company - they operate from an industrial estate a couple of minutes walk from where I grew up. My parents were one of their firs customers (at the time, they specialised in fitted kitchens).

It just smacks of a director/company who don't know or care about the telephone preference service or similar.

If you want more info on the company, look at this

http://companycheck.co.uk/company/SC089938/D-M-DESIGN-BEDROOMS-LIMITED

C

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Anonymous Coward

Re: They aren't a fly-by-night company. They've existed since 1984

Interesting.

It looks like a husband and wife team. Their names are:

Donald MacLeod and Elizabeth Ann MacLeod.

Donald is also a director of BALMORAL KITCHENS & BATHROOMS LIMITED and KENILWORTH PROPERTY COMPANY LIMITED.

Ann is also a director of NIKKI TAYLOR LTD and BALMORAL KITCHENS & BATHROOMS LIMITED.

NOTE: The above is all publicly available information.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: They aren't a fly-by-night company. They've existed since 1984

Got a home phone number ?

Let's see if they are interested in a new kitchen.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: They aren't a fly-by-night company. They've existed since 1984

Hey read this on Donald Macleod, he was found guilty of being a groper sex pest by an employment tribunal:

http://www.scotsman.com/news/scottish-news/top-stories/director-pays-out-for-kissing-employee-1-614237

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Re: They aren't a fly-by-night company. They've existed since 1984

Try Companies House.

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Anonymous Coward

PPI Helpline

Now if somebody could track down the building these calls originate from, burn it to ground and then salt the earth where it stood it would make me immensely happy.

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More practical

£100 fine per call, to be split between 50:50 between ICO and victim. Double if they're registered with TPS. That would really encourage people to report the calls, as I suspect there are 100 or 1000 unreported calls for every one that is reported

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Flame

Not nearly enough

They should be slow roasted over an open fire.

Hands up who has had a stupid sales call when:

1) It's the pop shot with your girlfriend

2) Right in the middle of a good dump

3) You have just got in the shower

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Gimp

Re: Not nearly enough

Bonus points for all 3 at the same time?

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Re: Not nearly enough

You really interrupted those activities to answer the phone and find out? Me, I'd have let it ring.

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Go

Re: Not nearly enough

Nope for 1 & 2, but it does put you off your stride.

Yes for 3 when I was expecting a call.

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Joke

Re: Not nearly enough

@David Neil

Reminds me of a German p0rn film I saw once (Yuk!).

Phil.

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Re: Not nearly enough

With an elderly relative who may call for urgent assistance at any time, yes, I'd interrupt (almost ?) anything.

I gave up reporting TPS violations a few years ago after they responded to my FOI enquiry asking what the oucome of complaints was. The answer (shortened from 3 pages) was: If they got enough complaints about an organisation they would ask them to stop but they had never imposed any penalty. So whether the £90k gets paid or not at least the ICO has got of it' fat arse eventually and maybe some other crooks will get the message - and move their call centres to India. If I pick up the phone and hear an Indian voice, I just put the phone down - I've probably done it to my Bank...

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Flame

Re: Not nearly enough

> Hands up who has had a stupid sales call when:

4) had a loved one about to die and any phone call can be "the one"

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Not nearly enough

Been there done (4) in the last couple of months. Friend in hospice with no CLI presented, so "ignore anonymous calls" has to be disabled temporarily. Might even have posted about it (anonymously) somewhere.

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Flame

Pathetic

£90,000 for phoning up strangers and threatening them? The buggers should be in jail for that one.

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10 years until the first fine

These regulations have existed for 10 years, and this is the first ever fine.

How long do I have to wait before they start fining people who send me spam emails?

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Mushroom

The ICO and OFCOM need to stop being spineless and shut these companies down. When they're done with that they need to move on to companies leaving recorded messages - which aren't presently covered by the same regulations.

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Thumb Up

"The ICO and OFCOM need to stop being spineless and shut these companies down."

Yes, the "corporate death penalty" would be appropriate. (Revoke the ltd company's charter and confiscate its assets.)

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Anonymous Coward

re: "Revoke the ltd company's charter and confiscate its assets"

Utterly pointless.

E.g. Ask anyone who's worked in or near the (UK?) building trade. Standard operating practice for years was build something, go bust (ideally leaving as many suppliers as possible unpaid), resurrect another company in the same business with the same directors and the same employees. Or has something been done to stop that happening? (Yes I'm aware of disqualification of directors, shadow director rules, etc. Useless.)

It's been like that for years, and not just in the building trade. Gilbert and Sullivan even wrote an opera about it (honest); look up Utopia Limited, first performed 1893 (nothing to do with the user on here calling himself Todd Rundgren, sorry).

A serious chance of being caught, followed by a serious chance of time inside. Nothing less will have any effect.

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Chocolate teapot

Meantime the so-called "backwards" americans have $500 per call right of private action (triple damages for willful violations, which is a given if you're on a do-not-call list), criminal proceedings and charges of a couple of million dolars for breaching do not call lists and the regulator (FCC) gets to charge $15,000 PER CALL on top of that, with recorded robocalls being banned 20 years ago.

Not to mention that it's a criminal offence to fake or wthhold callerID on a marketing call and both the spamming company PLUS the company who hired them are equally liable (IE, follow the money).

The FCC has gone after (and collected from) UK companie who've breached the TCPA.

Note that the company in the story concerned aren't being fined for breaching the TPS list - that's never occurred and it is unlikely to whilst the current govt is in power.

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Most nuisance calls nowadays come from abroad anyway

Hardly a day goes by in the Welsh household without a phone call from "the subcontinent".

Me: "Hello" (studiedly not giving anything away)

Caller (in overwhelmingly strong Indian accent): "Hello, may I speak to Tom Welsh?"

Me: "I am he"

Caller: "My name is Richard and I am calling to tell you about something very important. It has come to the government's notice.../I am from the Microsoft Support Centre and I have to tell you that your computer has a virus.../etc. etc.ad nauseam.

Following some useful advice gleaned on this very forum, I now tend to say I must consult someone else and then leave the phone off the hook. But it's frustrating that, in the 21st century, BT tell us they can't trace/block/deal with out-of-country nuisance calls. I can foresee a future (for many people I guess it's already here) when we don't have landlines and pick up our mobiles on a "white list" basis.

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Flame

Re: Most nuisance calls nowadays come from abroad anyway

I take the view that it is more a case of BT not wanting to do anything.

A BT droid once told me that it would be illegal for BT to block calls from overseas - even the ones that spoof caller ID.

My view is that if I am not expecting calls from overseas I should be able to block out of UK calls to the line I pay rental for - further the b/s about not being able to legally block any calls - I would suggest that where a caller is sending false data identifying an overseas line as being a UK one that has to be a breach of BTs T&C somewhere.

Its time some real protection was given to citizens - the business world has had 10 years to get its head around the law. Now we need to see some big fines, penalties for UK companies that deliberately use overseas call centres to circumvent UK law including a law to make them liable for the acts of companies who are in effect acting as their agents - and establish a quadruple penalty in those cases as it would be in effect an aggravated offence.

Time to play some real hard ball with this pond dwelling scum.

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Alert

Re: Most nuisance calls nowadays come from abroad anyway

"I take the view that it is more a case of BT not wanting to do anything."

If (big if!) the regulator gave consumers a compensation from their telcos for every nuisance call that they receive (let's say £10 a call), and then gave every telco the right to charge the "upstream" telco the amount it has to pay out plus a handling margin, you can bet they would find a technical solution pretty quick.

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Re: Most nuisance calls nowadays come from abroad anyway

"A BT droid once told me that it would be illegal for BT to block calls from overseas - even the ones that spoof caller ID."

Bollocks.

The real reason they don't block international spam calls is that they'd lose substantial amounts ot termination revenue (The receiving telco gets about 1/3 of the call cost most of the time, sometimes more)

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Facepalm

90k? Ha ha! It's like "taking away" the license from someone caught driving without a license, they never cared in the first place so they're bloody unlikely to care now!

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Meh

Wow

The terrier has yapped.

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WTF?

You what?

2000 complaints logged against this company. Er....It took TWO THOUSAND complaints for the ICO to investigate?

Does that mean that they can't be bothered with 'only' hundreds of complaints

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