back to article Nuisance call blocking firms fined £170,000 ... for making nuisance calls

The Information Commissioner's Office has raised a tidy £250,000 this week with two more fines for companies flogging nuisance call-blocking services by, yep, you guessed it, making nuisance calls, after receiving over 1,000 complaints. Poole-based Nuisance Call Blocked Ltd received a fine of £90,000, while Telecom Protection …

  1. Chozo

    I wonder

    What's the bet that both these firms phoned the ICO's Head of Enforcement at home?

  2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    Can we have some collection statistics?

    I bet that most of these fold, fail to pay and are restarted under new names shortly thereafter.

  3. paulf Silver badge
    Pirate

    Re: Can we have some collection statistics?

    I can't help thinking that the collection statistics would show a success rate in the region of "Manifesto pledges kept once they got into Government"

    This is ripe for a FoI request. Any journo at El Reg up for this before "Call me Dave" manages to repeal the FoI act and thus our ability to find out Gubbermint dirt?

  4. Ledswinger Silver badge

    Re: Can we have some collection statistics?

    Can we have some collection statistics?

    Did this yesterday in a separate thread. From the ICO's last annual report, broad brush is that 18% of penalties (for all DPA breaches, not just spam texts and calling) are written off, almost all of the remainder are paid in full and early enough to get the 20% prompt payment discount that ICO offer to offenders.

    My inference is that its only the bunglers in the public sector and large corporates who unintentionally broke the law who pay promptly (so the NHS, people like TalkTalk - hopefully), and it's the intentional law breakers who are the 18% of non-payers, by having "burner" legal entitities that they can jettison whenever the law catches up with them.

    The sooner the ICO gets powers to bar directors and managers the better.

  5. paulf Silver badge
    Devil

    Re: Can we have some collection statistics?

    @ Ledswinger

    "The sooner the ICO gets powers to bar directors and managers the better."

    This should be the bare minimum - people should personally carry the consequences rather than an expendable legal entity with no money, making the fine an academic exercise.

    Imprisonment and the resulting criminal record would be more desirable. That would kinda hamper their freedoms in the future and may encourage others to think twice before deciding to become a SPAM slinger (see icon).

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-14556347

  6. Ledswinger Silver badge

    Re: Can we have some collection statistics?@ paulf

    If you're feeling strongly about it, report them here:

    https://www.gov.uk/complain-about-a-limited-company

    It would seem to me that this company have been causing harm to customers, breaking the law, and if trading whilst declared dormant would have a significant irregularity in their affairs. The Insolvency Service probably aren't proactive, but once they've received a complaint they'll probably keep on at it like a dog with an old bone.

    Winding up the company as a burner won't protect the vermin from investigation and hopefully from further sanctions that aren't open to the ICO.

  7. Mark 85 Silver badge

    @Ledswinger -- Re: Can we have some collection statistics?

    The sooner the ICO gets powers to bar directors and managers the better.

    It's a good idea but practically speaking, I don't think it will work. What penalty for ignoring the 'ban' would work? How do you catch these guys? It's easy to open a shadow company where the board/ownership is hidden.

  8. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

    Re: @Ledswinger -- Can we have some collection statistics?

    What penalty for ignoring the 'ban' would work?

    Prison.

  9. Hargrove

    Re: Can we have some collection statistics?

    Well said, VRH!

    Here in the US the FTC touts "billions in judgements" and gets annual budgets of--if memory serves--upwards of 100 million taxpayer dollars for an activity that, as near as I can tell does not have real capability or legal authority to actually do anything to stop or deter SPAM and violations of the no not call registry.

    It's been a couple of years since I waded through the legalese, but the last time I looked, the net effect of the language of the laws and implementing regulations is to ensure that no one has both capability and responsibility for final action. This is a windmill that I used to tilt at occasionally. The only success I ever had was with one SPAMMER who was inept enough to allow me to get at an actual physical address in a state that made sending SPAM a criminal offense and had a group dedicated to enforcement.

    The simple solution to this is to put a miniscule surtax on all outgoing transmissions. A half cent or two per phone call would be lost in the noise, but would be a significant cost for a robocalling operation. The Telco's may not know who is using their networks. But they damned well know who and where they send the monthly bills for use of the numbers to.

    As to the claim that the numbers are fake, and there is no way to pin them down. . . If that is so, then we have serious national security vulnerabilities and all the assurances from our governments about their ability to protect citizens against terrorism are so much smoke and mirrors.

  10. sysconfig

    The ICO won't see any money

    Nuisance Call Blocker Ltd, Poole, according to Companies House has a total worth of £0.01 and is allegedly dormant since 2013. Annual return is 10 months overdue, accounts 2 months overdue.

    Didn't bother to check the other outfit. Probably similar.

  11. Little Mouse

    Re: The ICO won't see any money

    Maybe HMRC should sent the auditors round.

    What are the chances that a Dodgy scam artist with piss-poor accounting has nothing else to hide...?

  12. Ledswinger Silver badge

    Re: The ICO won't see any money

    allegedly dormant since 2013

    Possibly they've notified HMRC and Companies House that they've been trading since they filed the dormant accounts, but I doubt it. I'd like to think that Colin Robertson the director who signed the dormant accounts would be prosecuted under relevant tax, VAT and companies acts, but I'll wager that ICO say "not my job", HMRC are too busy hassling IT contractors, and the police will say they're too busy hunting paedoterrorists.

  13. dogged

    Re: The ICO won't see any money

    > HMRC are too busy hassling IT contractors

    In the spirit of off-topic irony, HMRC do not employ any IT contractors. Directly. They use CapGemini instead and CapGemini use literally hundreds of IT contractors to do work for HMRC*. Those contractors are well aware of HMRC's nefarious ambitions in their direction however, and are unlikely to just sit there and take it.

    *Disclosure - I am currently one of them.

  14. paulf Silver badge
    Stop

    STOP!

    "An enforcement notice has been issued by the ICO to the two companies, demanding they stop.."

    Stop now or we'll ask you to stop again, nicely, pretty please.

    The ICO issuing anything as strong as an "Enforcement notice" just makes me laugh.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: STOP!

    "Stop now or we'll ask you to stop again, nicely, pretty please."

    Was this set up by ex ASA people, you know.....catchy name but fail to actually do anything until a few years after the event when the culprits have long since moved shop

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: STOP!

    Agree about ASA, useless as a chocolate teapot.

    Did a complaint about argos a few weeks ago, sending misleading emails, ASA agreed with me, and had a word with argos to stop it apparently, lo and behold another email with exactly the same problem arrive from argos a few days later, emailed ASA person about it, not heard a word back from them!!!.

    No wonder companies use misleading advertising and spam NGO's are useless.

  17. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Re: STOP!

    "Agree about ASA, useless as a chocolate teapot."

    By design.

    Despite the name, ASA is a trade association, not a regulator.

    They were setup to avoid govt intervention by providing the illusion of self regulation. The sooner they're rendered redundant by a real regulator with real powers instead of a cardboard cutout run by the very industry it supposedly regulates, the better.

  18. Esme

    I wish O2'd stop calling me

    I know it's not quite the same thing, but I do wish O2 would take it to heart when I tell them taht I really and truuly do not want to get any phonecalls from them ever regarding how happy I am with their services, whether I want to know about some service I dont; already use, etc. I'd block the buggers if I could, never mind that they're the people I'm buying network access from!

  19. dogged

    Re: I wish O2'd stop calling me

    For once, we agree completely.

  20. Yugguy

    Re: I wish O2'd stop calling me

    Indeed, or stupid texts in the night for stuff I don't want.

    You could try this chap's response:

    https://youtu.be/7aQd2zkuF8A

  21. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Re: I wish O2'd stop calling me

    You give them negative satisfaction on account of their calls. After all it's negative customer service.

  22. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Re: I wish O2'd stop calling me

    "I do wish O2 would take it to heart when I tell them taht I really and truuly do not want to get any phonecalls from them ever regarding how happy I am with their services,"

    Start asking what colour underwear they're wearing, etc.

  23. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Re: I wish O2'd stop calling me

    Ask them what colour their underwear is and if they've ever wondered what their own liver tastes like.

    The more you can reduce the caller to tears, the more likely it is you'll be on their "never ever call again" list.

  24. FredBloggs61

    I hate the "survey on our service" text messages that most of the telcoms I have had dealings with seem to insist on sending out every time you call them about anything!

  25. TheProf
    Facepalm

    Ditto

    And everything I buy from an internet trader now comes with a free 'How did we do? Please review your widget' email.

  26. muddysteve

    Re: Ditto

    It is particularly annoying at this time of year, as I am being asked to review things that won't even be unboxed until Christmas Day.

  27. Yugguy

    I've had 3 emails off an ebay vendor, for the same one thing I bought, all saying the same thing.

    "This is an email to check if our product arrive. Please only reply if it didn't."

  28. Commswonk Silver badge

    My current pet hate

    is the numerous calls telling me that all UK C/H boilers "must" be upgraded to be energy efficient by sometime in 2016. Now that may well be the point at which grants for replacements may cease to be available, but "must"? IANAL but to me that claim is simply fraudulent, as it implies a legal requirement to replace a working boiler. Needless to say pressing "9" to be removed from the company's list is ineffective, unless of course a number of different companies are using esactly the same recorded message, which is of course entirely possible.

    I haven't the courage to press whatever number to "sign up" because it is all too likely to result in a barrage of other calls I don't want. Given that the total number of unwanted sales calls (including the slient ones) doers not seem to have diminished it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the ICOs efforts - such as they are - are wholly unsuccessful. So many of the numbers from which calls are made (where there are numbers disclosed) are either overseas or clearly spoofed, so I am at a loss to know how to even report them with any chance of the ICO being able to trace them even if he/they/it could be bothered to do so.

    As an aside (i.e. OT!) we don't want a more efficient boiler as it all likelihood it would require a complete rebuilding of the C/H system, and no grant is going to cover that. Simple mathematics point to the conclusion that any saving in gas would take too long to recover the money spent up front, or in other words we might not live long enough to see any financial benefit; three score years and ten beckon...

    Apart from that modern boilers have a reputation for not being all that long - lived themselves. :(

  29. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Re: My current pet hate

    First time they call tell them that you don't want any more calls and that if they do call again you'll make an appointment for the sole purpose of expressing your displeasure to the rep. Preferably record the call. Then if they call back arrange an appointment. When the rep comes tell him to tell the company to stop calling. The rep, who's probably mostly if not entirely on commission, isn't going to be pleased but make it clear that it's entirely the company's fault because they were specifically warned and he should direct is complaints to them. Even better, have it written out, hand it to him & shut the door so he can't argue.

  30. FozzyBear Silver badge
    Happy

    Re: My current pet hate

    This is the best advice. Done it before, I'll do it again.

  31. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Re: My current pet hate

    "Needless to say pressing "9" to be removed from the company's list is ineffective,"

    I give out a £1.50 070 number to all contacts. It costs me £10/year

    If they're going to market at me, they can bloody well pay for it - incoming calls on the number are strung along as long as possible before mentioning how much they're paying for the call - which usually results in swearing and a hangup. Spammers may be able to fake their callerID, but telcos make a point of ensuring they get paid for chargable stuff.

  32. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Re: My current pet hate

    It's even more fun if you string the rep out before you make it clear to them why you made the appointment.

    They'll be absolutely incandescent by the time they get back to the office.

  33. Mark #255

    Condensing Boilers (Re: My current pet hate)

    As an aside (i.e. OT!) we don't want a more efficient boiler as it all likelihood it would require a complete rebuilding of the C/H system

    It depends how exotic your system is: certainly you can get a condensing boiler that's a plumb-in replacement for a system boiler, leaving all your existing system (hot water tank, pumps, controller etc) intact.

  34. Hargrove

    Re: My current pet hate

    @Alan Brown:

    I give out a £1.50 070 number to all contacts. It costs me £10/year

    Maestro! Brilliant.

  35. dogged

    Dear Sir or Madam,

    Our records indicate you were once felt up by Jimmy Savile and could be entitled to compensation of up to £2147. Just reply "how's about that then" to register or "stop Jimmy stop" to opt out. Sign up before the 31st to get a free "Lawyers 4 U fixed it for me" badge.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I no longer answer any calls unless I have the calling number known to me and entered in the phone's memory,

    It's still a nuisance having to delete the few who leave messages, but with practice, you can get to a response time where they only get one word out before you delete their message.

  37. TheVogon Silver badge

    "I no longer answer any calls unless I have the calling number known to me and entered in the phone's memory,"

    Just install the Truecaller app.

  38. dogged

    > Just install the Truecaller app.

    No. I am not prepared to hand my address book to a third-party.

  39. TheVogon Silver badge

    "I am not prepared to hand my address book to a third-party."

    Doing that is entirely optional.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why would anyone be paying for nuisance call blocking anyway?

    You can get a simple plug in box that deals with 90+% of calls (I use TruCall and I think there is a BT phone withe the same functionality). I just make all unavailable/withheld/international numbers, go though to a simple "press 5 if you are somebody I actually want to speak to" and that takes care of all the robot dialers that most of these guys are using.

  41. Adrian Midgley 1

    Listing the people running such companies

    and if the journalist time is available digging and following them would be a service to society.

  42. Hargrove

    Re: Listing the people running such companies

    Re: Adrian Midgley 1

    and if the journalist time is available digging and following them would be a service to society.

    . . . and speaking of digging, if one had a backhoe handy, one could do an even greater service to humanity. Consider the benefit to the quality of the human gene pool that could be realized.

  43. Marvin O'Gravel Balloon Face

    My gripe...

    Signed up for Millets mailing list using millets@mydomain to get a free voucher.

    Ticked the "do not pass on my email address.." box.

    Unsubscribed about a year ago.

    Millets get bought out by JD Sports about six months ago.

    JD Sports mail me at millets@mydomain at 1am this morning blathering on about their Black Friday deals.

  44. paulf Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Re: My gripe...

    This happens a lot more regularly, at least to me.

    A hotel in Bath I stayed at in 2011 apparently removed me from their list (after they sent out spam with all recipients in the TO list FFS). Then the hotel changes hands earlier this year and the spams start again. The new owners were introduced to a diverse array of four letter words when I asked them why...

    Halfrauds. Placed one order with them 18 months ago. Unsubscribed from the emails which started despite not unticking the box to not be unsubscribed from their don't email me list. Then emails start again last week for Black Friday.

    Oakley. Nothing from them for years then last week I start getting emails about their deals on Black Fucking Friday and Cyber Sodding Monday.

    As with you - I now issue unique email addresses which get deleted when the spam starts up.

    Shits all of them. Icon - bonfire of marketers.

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