back to article ICO fined cold-call firm £350k – so directors put it into liquidation

A Brighton-based robo-call spam operation has been hit by a record £350,000 fine by data privacy watchdogs. Since the firm has been closed down and entered liquidation, however, even the Information Commissioner admits the fine is unlikely to be paid. Prodial Ltd, a lead generation firm responsible for more than 46 million …

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  1. BurnT'offering

    Send a bunch of SMSes

    "Have you ever worked for Prodial Ltd?"

  2. Keith Glass

    Lots of luck. . .

    . . . chances are, any profits have gone overseas and through a maze of offshore banks.

    I'm sure the goal was to evade the Taxman, but it also protects it from the fines. Although I'm QUITE sure the Accountants got paid. . . .

  3. Wolfclaw Silver badge

    Go after the directors houses and flash cars!

    1. Roger Greenwood

      Good luck with that - LTD = limited liability and they probably already have the successor up and running. Prodial never filed any accounts it was that new.

      1. Blane Bramble

        Directors are still liable for criminal or fraudulent activity.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Limited liability is for the shareholders.

        Directors can and should be held fully accountable for illegal actions.

        It's perfectly possible to write rules so that when companies go titsup, the fines pass to the directors, but the ICO won't do it (it's also possible to make sure fines can't be counted against taxable income, but the ICO donesn't bother with that either)

        Oh look. Brighton Huh?

        Registered Address

        Bridgestones Limited

        125-127 Union Street

        Oldham

        Lancashire

        OL1 1TE

        United Kingdom

        Telephone

        Unknown

        Trading Address

        125-127 Union Street

        Oldham

        Lancashire

        OL1 1TE

        Telephone

        Add telephone

        Description

        Prodial Ltd was incorporated on 07 Nov 2014 and is located in Lancashire. The company's status is listed as "Liquidation" and it currently has one director. The company's first director was Mr Louis Kidd. Prodial Ltd does not have any subsidiaries.

        That name's popped up before in these kinds of cases.

        https://www.endole.co.uk/company/09300430/prodial-ltd has a bunch more information. The usual suspects show up again and again.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Bridgestones are the liquidator

          Greatest respect etc, but perhaps you're not aware that Bridgestones are (presumably the) liquidators?

          Prodial Ltd were registered in Brighton till July 2015 and then there were several changes of address, ultimately ending up at Bridgestones in Oldham. Companies House has the info:

          https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/09300430/filing-history

          See also:

          http://www.bridgestones.co.uk/

          and

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LmLDf9XKMfk Harry J

        2. KeithR

          "but the ICO won't do it "

          but the ICO can't do it

          There - fixed it for you.

          The ICO has no law-making powers.

      3. Loud Speaker

        When I first ran a Limited Liability company, I was told that "if I broke the law, then the liability would no longer be limited".

        Is this no longer true?

        Was it ever true?

        Why the hell is it not true?

        We, the people, give permission for people to incorporate limited liability companies on our terms it is up to us to set terms that are good for society. The people giveth, and the people can take away.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Go after the director's fingers with a lump hammer ;)

      1. PNGuinn
        Mushroom

        Go after the director's fingers with a lump hammer

        Why stop at their fingers?

        Scum.

    3. Pseu Donyme

      Methinks directors should be personally liable for ICO fines in case a LLC fails to pay them for any reason (unless, of course, they go to court to argue otherwise and the court finds in their favor).

    4. Richard Jones 1
      Happy

      Disqualify them as Directors

      Disqualify them from any and all future director ships.

      Get the HMRC special investigation unit on their case.

      Take the property as something used for crime.

      Impound any passports as they are clearly a flight risk.

      Block all accounts until' matters have been cleared up'.

      Get really and truly inventive and tie them up in tax and legal knots.

    5. Bloakey1

      "Go after the directors"

      <snip>

      There you go I have fixed that for you. These people really drive me mad. I live abroad and I get crap sent to me that cost from anything to 20 pence a time to 400 pence a time.

      Bastards the lot of them.

      1. Lotaresco Silver badge

        Who are you and what have you done with

        ... the real Bloakey, HORSE, HAND, PNONY?

  4. davidp231

    And back it will come, with a slightly different name - ad infinitum.

    1. Steve Gill

      Having 'bought' the hardware on the cheap in the liquidation sale

      1. paulc

        Having 'bought' the hardware on the cheap in the liquidation sale

        That rarely happens, usually the assets are sold to a friend's shell company for a small sum and then 'rented' back from that firm... then there are no actual assets to seize

  5. sysconfig

    Clear message to other firms...

    As long as fines aren't enforceable against individuals (read: directors, or ex-directors as the case may be), the only message being sent clearly is: If you run that kind of business, make sure to re-distribute your profits quickly elsewhere, so that you can fold, rinse and repeat quickly. That is exactly what's going to happen here, if it hasn't already. The ICO is mistaken if he really thinks that fines against limited companies as a whole (as opposed to individual officers of such an entity) will change a thing.

    Edit: How did the debt collection against a nuisance call blocking (and making) company go, dear ICO?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Clear message to other firms...

      "fines enforceable against individuals"

      Wouldn't that be nice, though it rather defeats the point of limited liability companies. Which may be a good thing - even Gilbert and Sullivan knew they were a bad idea, back in 1893 (as depicted in Utopia Limited [1] - no, not Todd Rundgren's Utopia, the G+S one).

      The sole director of Prodial Ltd during the period concerned would appear to be listed at Companies House:

      https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/officers/-A9ndDp7HBJXJ6o2SJagk6aX3-o/appointments

      and that person still appears to have one active directorship elsewhere:

      https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/09706117

      A well known mapping website has the registered address as in a residential area and lists a chip shop trading from the *house* next door (I realise that kind of thing used to happen, this is a modern estate...)

      [1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utopia,_Limited

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Clear message to other firms...

        "fines enforceable against individuals"...Wouldn't that be nice, though it rather defeats the point of limited liability

        Utter rubbish. The point of limited liability is simply to put a limit on the investment risk exposure of investors, not to allow directors to shield themselves from fines for their own actions in breach of law.

        There's a whole host of activities where directors can be personally held to account for their actions in a limited company, including Health & Safety breaches, competition law offences, controlling a company whilst being disqualified as a director, contempt of court by the company etc. As usual, the statute relating to data protection is decades out of date, and the enforcement is limited by the rules that Parliament rubber stamped without reading or understanding.

      2. x 7 Silver badge

        Re: Clear message to other firms...

        he resigned as Director of Protech on 23/7/15 -presumably after the business was handed to the Administrators

        Then he was appointed director of CRM Tech Ltd on 28/7/15

        he should be barred from acting as a Director

      3. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Clear message to other firms...

        At some point Mr Kidd's going to irritate someone who has poor self control and the means to make life extremely, personally uncomfortable.

  6. Andy Non
    Flame

    I'm sick of such PPI calls

    Every Thursday afternoon I get such a call. A Recorded message going on about PPI and how the banks owe me zillions. Press one number to talk to someone or press another number to be removed from their database. I just put the receiver on one side and let the message ramble on for its full duration of a minute or so until it disconnects then hang up the phone. No way I'm pressing any buttons. I figure that while their message is rambling on to my number they aren't pestering someone else.

    I reported the caller's number to ICO; maybe the calls will eventually stop, but I have doubts, they've gone on for around four months now, every week like clockwork. You would have thought that after all this time that they would have figured out I'm never going to respond and removed me from their list, it must cost them something to keep making these futile calls to the same people over and over again.

    1. Cynical Observer
      Mushroom

      Re: I'm sick of such PPI calls

      "I reported the caller's number to ICO; maybe the calls will eventually stop, but I have doubts, they've gone on for around four months now, every week like clockwork"

      The problem I have with these tossers (the companies not the ICO) is that they are spoofing CLI - you can see the number come in and it is always one digit short.

      So Mr ICO.... make it mandatory that a commercial entity must be registered in order to spoof CLI. There are undoubtedly legitimate reasons to do so and it should be a simple enough process to register.

      For any unregistered commercial entity, it should be illegal to spoof CLI - punishable with a custodial sentence for the appropriate directing corporate officer.

      It probably won't stop the overseas callers but I suspect that if the politicians were to define and pass the law and the CPS prosecute a test case or three we would see many of these vanish from the UK.

      1. Andy Non

        Re: I'm sick of such PPI calls

        @Cynical Observer, Funny you should say that; when I reported the number given by 1471 to ICO it didn't look right and I got the impression it had a digit missing. Evil barstewards, sounds like you can't even report the buggers!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I'm sick of such PPI calls

          "[...] it didn't look right and I got the impression it had a digit missing."

          The purpose of the spoofed number is to bypass filters that block "withheld" or "international" callers.

          What annoys me is that the doctors' surgery and the local council all register as "withheld". I don't understand why they aren't presenting some general number that can be recognised and rung back if necessary. British Gas do that correctly.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: I'm sick of such PPI calls

            What annoys me is that the doctors' surgery and the local council all register as "withheld"

            Anyone who does that to me gets a recorded message to callback without callerid block or dial a (expensive) 070 number instead.

            I'd use a 090 and charge £15 a shot, but £1.50 per minute is enough and I get this number for £5/year vs £50 for the 090

            the 070 is also given to businesses. If they want to circulate my number for marketing purposes then the callers can pay for the privilege.

          2. Ian Emery Silver badge

            Re: I'm sick of such PPI calls

            NHS systems have the option to enable CLI, but even when you tell them the call will be blocked if they dont, they STILL usually try to call you with it disabled.

            The Police system blocks CLI and supposedly, they cant turn it off.

            Yeah, the judgement is a joke; never going to see a penny of it; in fact they will probably spend twice as much trying to enforce it.

            UK law almost never goes after company directors, the governments (of all flavours), love their money too much.

            1. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: I'm sick of such PPI calls

              "The Police system blocks CLI and supposedly, they cant turn it off."

              Except that they can, because they invariably call back a few minutes later with it enabled.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: I'm sick of such PPI calls

        It's perfectly possible for the telcos to filter spoofed Caller ID.

        BT already do it on their ISDN lines (you can set any callerID you want on ISDN), restricting allowable CLI to the assigned numbers on the trunks.

        Unsurprisingly when they did that, all the phone spammers they had, went away.

        CLI is what's presented to the end user. There's another layer - ANI - used for billing purposes and if stuff is coming in that doesn't match then telcos are in a position to refuse to complete the call on fraud prevention grounds. (For that matter mobilecos are also able to refuse SMSes based on fake message centre data, but they won't)

        I rather suspect that the plague of PPI scammers will only end when a few of the PPI scammers meet grisely ends. I'll happily crowdsource such an event too.

        1. JoeF

          Re: I'm sick of such PPI calls

          "There's another layer - ANI - used for billing purposes and if stuff is coming in that doesn't match then telcos are in a position to refuse to complete the call on fraud prevention grounds."

          To spoof the ANI (Automatic Number Identification), you would have to do some serious hacking, I doubt that these guys knew how to do that.

          Caller ID spoofing is trivial with modern VoIP systems.

        2. VinceH Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: I'm sick of such PPI calls

          "I rather suspect that the plague of PPI scammers will only end when a few of the PPI scammers meet grisely ends. I'll happily crowdsource such an event too."

          Reward options:

          * Make them toe the line - ten available. Pledge £20 and receive one of the PPI spammer's toes.

          * Give them the finger - eight available. Pledge £20 and receive one of the PPI spammer's fingers.

          * Thumbs up to this idea - two available. Pledge £30 and receive one of the PPI spammer's thumbs.

          * The shoe's on the other foot - two available. Pledge £100 and receive one of the PPI spammer's feet (toes removed).

          * This'll cost them an arm and a leg 1 - two available. Pledge £500 and receive one of the PPI spammer's arms.

          * This'll cost them an arm and a leg 2 - two available. Pledge £500 and receive one of the PPI spammer's legs.

          And so on.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I'm sick of such PPI calls

          While BT may be very careful to stop people spoofing caller ID while being directly attached to their network, many unscrupulous VoIP companies don't (especially the ones that aren't based in the UK and don't care about UK rules and regs).

          Given the numbers of "0044203....." calls I've had I'd guess that some of these calls originate abroad, using a telco that is not in the UK, and something en-route is appending the international access code as the call didn't originate here.

          It's said that BT used to block all international caller ID because they couldn't trust the origin. For once, BT might have been right about something!

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: I'm sick of such PPI calls

            > Given the numbers of "0044203....."

            020 3xxx xxxx numbers used to be all virtual, so you knew you were dealing with a VOIP call when they appeared on the inbound.

            Unfortunately, Sky has been assigning them to real domestic customers around London.

      3. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: I'm sick of such PPI calls

        "It probably won't stop the overseas callers but I suspect that if the politicians were to define and pass the law and the CPS prosecute a test case or three we would see many of these vanish from the UK."

        Overseas callers usually trace back to UK companies.

        The problem in the UK is that an overseas origin is used to play "not my problem mate".

        German and USA enforcement agencies trace things through to the local origin and have been known to kick in doors without warning.

  7. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "lay down a marker"

    A much more efficient marker would be a gravestone, that of the CEO who piloted this scam operation.

    I think that would send a very different "signal" to other companies, one that they would heed with great attention.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "lay down a marker"

      I say! That's a tad extreme, don't you think.

      And yet . . .

      1. Triggerfish

        Re: "lay down a marker"

        I say! That's a tad extreme, don't you think.

        I dunno weren't these the people doing the nuisance calls in the early am betwen 1 and 6.

        Speaking as an insomnaic who really likes sleep when he can get it.

        I think hunted down eviscerated and left as a blood eagle on the company doorsteps would have been a suitable response and warning.

    2. Tomato42 Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: "lay down a marker"

      yeah, liquefying him would show a nice precedent

      no, not a typo

  8. Christoph Silver badge
  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Here's an idea. Pass the fine onto the new company, but how can we prove who the new company is? Simple, just see who their telecoms supplier is and find out who the account was passed to and confirm that the new company paid off the old debt confirming that this is indeed the company who should pay the fine.

    I used to work in telecoms a long time ago and that was what all companies doing the lets go bump, dodge debts and start up again as someone else did. Some did it multiple times and had multiple family members as directors. Some even had all the companies lined up ready to move to on companies house.

    1. Cynical Observer

      Unfortunately - unless you rewrite huge swathes of company law, you will have a problem.

      One of the primary concepts encapsulated in limited liability exists to ring fence the debts of a company. If it didn't, then you could go straight after the directors and their personal assets.

      There are many independents who use limited companies in order to ring-fence their business away from the family home - that's perfectly legitimate and I for one wouldn't change it.

      It might be possible to cross that divide - everything is possible with enough time and effort. Something to the effect that criminal fines can be retrieved from directors in the event of a liquidation. But that is the start of a very slippery slope and will produce howls of protest.

      The ICO might be more successful if they tried placing the appropriate directing corporate officer on the hook for a custodial sentence - it would hold regardless of liquidation and might slow some of the buggers down.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "Unfortunately - unless you rewrite huge swathes of company law, you will have a problem."

        Leave company law alone but amend insolvency law to prevent a company being liquidated whilst criminal proceedings or fines are pending with the body issuing the fines joining HMRC in getting first dibs at the assets.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        "One of the primary concepts encapsulated in limited liability exists to ring fence the debts of a company. If it didn't, then you could go straight after the directors and their personal assets."

        Directors are not held harmless for illegal activities - and knowingly engaging in illegal activities is sufficient grounds for "piercing the company veil" to hold all officers personally liable.

        The ICO _could_ get their money if they're willing to go to court and get a declaratory judgement, however they can't be arsed - all they care about is issuing press releases about "XYZ fine issued, woo woo"

      3. KeithR

        "One of the primary concepts encapsulated in limited liability exists to ring fence the debts of a company. If it didn't, then you could go straight after the directors and their personal assets."

        Nope.

        This isn't a company debt - it's a lawfully applied financial penalty for a breach of UK law.

        Utterly different, and criminal directors are absolutely fair game for asset-stripping in these circumstances..

    2. GrumpenKraut Silver badge

      > Some even had all the companies lined up ready to move to on companies house.

      Looks like it: Louis KIDD, Phillip John CARRINGTON.

      Cannot offer my thoughts as they are certainly illegal in all legislations.

      1. wolfetone Silver badge

        You can pierce the corporate vale(sp?) though. But this only applies if there's significant reason to believe that the directors are dodgy.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          "But this only applies if there's significant reason to believe that the directors are dodgy."

          Only needs to be knowingly acting illegally - and both the "directors" have a string of such companies behind them.

        2. David 132 Silver badge
          Happy

          pierce the corporate vale(sp?)

          'SP?' indeed. In this context, it's "veil".

          Spelling error...must...resist...urge...to be pedantic...

          Personally, I'd pierce more than the veils of these cold-calling tosspots. Torsos, limbs, skulls. For a first offence.

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