back to article Glasgow boiler firm in hot water for cold calls, cops £180K fine

A Glasgow-based boiler replacement firm has been fined £180,000 for its prolific and obnoxious nuisance call campaign. FEP Heatcare made 2.6 million unwanted calls, which played a recorded message promoting the company’s products and services. Its activities made it one of Britain’s most complained about nuisance callers. …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Glasgow boiler firm in hot water for cold calls, cops £180K fine

    has the fine been actually COLLECTED? Or is it, that they were fined, quickly went bust and now have formed a new company in the upstairs bedroom?

    1. rhydian

      Re: Glasgow boiler firm in hot water for cold calls, cops £180K fine

      "Hello, you're after FEP Heatcare? I'm sorry, this is EFP CareHeat. FEP Heatcare was my wife's company"

      1. Smooth Newt Silver badge
        Flame

        Re: Glasgow boiler firm in hot water for cold calls, cops £180K fine

        Why don't the directors pick up the fine when a company has behaved unlawfully. After all they are ultimately responsible for running the company. If they claim they didn't know what was happening, then they should just pick up an additional fine for negligence.

        1. SolidSquid

          Re: Glasgow boiler firm in hot water for cold calls, cops £180K fine

          Generally they're set up as limited companies, which provides a degree of protection to the people working for the company in exchange for the owners not having full use of the funds (instead they draw a wage). Unless they can prove criminal intent on the part of the owners, it would be difficult to actually fine them personally for anything as opposed to fining the company as a separate entity

        2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Re: Glasgow boiler firm in hot water for cold calls, cops £180K fine

          Why don't the directors pick up the fine when a company has behaved unlawfully.

          I guess it depends upon your definition of "unlawful". They can be held personally accountable for criminal actions, ie. those that lead to criminal proceedings. But, guess what, the ICO is a regulator and not a court.

          In any case to go after these chumps you're best going after the telcos that provide the services and threaten them with access to the telephone system as an encouragement for them to police themselves.

        3. Christoph Silver badge

          Re: Glasgow boiler firm in hot water for cold calls, cops £180K fine

          "Why don't the directors pick up the fine when a company has behaved unlawfully."

          You mean these people?

    2. Ledswinger Silver badge

      Re: Glasgow boiler firm in hot water for cold calls, cops £180K fine

      Or is it, that they were fined, quickly went bust and now have formed a new company in the upstairs bedroom?

      That's the one. But the ICO should have spotted this earlier, because levying a £180k fine on a company with a paid up share capital (according to Companies House) of precisely six quid was never going to result in the ICO getting a brass farthing.

      But the big number fine gets the headlines, and the ICO can trouser his salary and pretend he's done a good job.

      1. jonathanb Silver badge

        Re: Glasgow boiler firm in hot water for cold calls, cops £180K fine

        They had £381,791 in the bank at 31st March 2015, still plenty left of that after paying the fine.

        1. Ledswinger Silver badge

          Re: Glasgow boiler firm in hot water for cold calls, cops £180K fine

          They had £381,791 in the bank at 31st March 2015

          And you think for one moment that they'd keep in the company faced with having almost half of it snatched? The whole point of companies with diddly squat equity is to be disposable.

  2. My-Handle

    Something doesn't add up...

    Quote 1: "which played a recorded message promoting the company’s products and services"

    Quote 2: "FEP Heatcare thought they could avoid detection by hiding their identity"

    I'm guessing the ICO probably didn't have to try all that hard to find the company responsible. I mean, what kind of advert would it be if it didn't mention the company concerned?

    1. Dan Wilkie

      Re: Something doesn't add up...

      I was just going to say the exact same thing... If they hid their identity, how would anyone get in touch with them to take them up on their splendid offer?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Something doesn't add up...

      Proof.

      They have to prove it was them and not a 3rd party marketing firm (or even a rival trying to cause an issue).

      Most people (these included) don't realise the number isn't actually withheld, but a privacy flag is set. Telcos can see the originating number, otherwise they couldn't bill. It gets more complex with overseascalls, but that could be sorted easily.

      1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

        Re: Something doesn't add up...

        I used to write IVRs. Our voice processors ( the boxes with the ISDN PRI cards in ) could set any originating telephone number, or none.

        ( I'm not a telecoms chap myself, just a former programmer of IVRs, so there might be more to it than I'm aware of ).

        I've also dealt with VOIP providers who allow setting any origin number on outbound calls.

        1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

          Re: Something doesn't add up...

          > Our voice processors ... could set any originating telephone number, or none.

          But your telco would block any numbers that weren't permitted. In simple cases, that would be numbers on that line, but I'm sure there were processes to allow other numbers (such as the main call centre contact number for large orgs) to be used.

          The problem is that with the rise of really cheap international calling (via oversees carriers with little motive to do the right thing), and VoIP, there are links in the chain that are much much weaker. I deal with VoIP at work, and the provider we use basically relies on the reseller to vet applications for "foreign" CLI presentation. As we are a reseller, I could easiler permit myself to spoof any number and in reality there's not a lot anyone can do about that.

          I think the main target should be within the industry, and telcos where the CLI isn't trustworthy should get some sort of restrictions placed on them until they either go bust or improve their processes. So basically, if a telco is caught allowing spoofed CLI - they should have all their CLI blocks and all their calls flagged as number not available or number withheld (that would allow easy call screening) and unless the telco's only customers are spammers, they'll be under commercial pressure from their custoemrs to "fix the problem". Or even just refuse to accept calls from such carriers.

          Now, if the ICO named and shamed the carriers responsible, there's scope for an industry blacklist and a new product to sell to customers "call blocking from spam friendly carriers". Don't expect it from any of the big names, they won't want to miss out on the revenue they get for terminating the calls.

      2. My-Handle

        Re: Something doesn't add up...

        They need proof to issue the fine, but I'm guessing all they need is a reasonable excuse to justify sending in the auditors / investigators with a warrant. Even if the company being advertised wasn't responsible, a search would very likely turn up any third-party marketing firms that the advertised company had dealings with. It's still a pretty big giveaway.

        I would say the 'rival' case is unlikely, as the rival in question would essentially be spending a lot of resource advertising for the competitor. The fine isn't a guaranteed outcome, and might not even offset the gain that the free advertising might bring. I will grant you, it would be more difficult to track down.

  3. 1Rafayal

    they are still making the calls though....

  4. MisterD

    14p a call. No wonder there's so much of this teleharassment going on, it's cheap advertising! Needs to be £20 per call if we're ever going to take back control of our phones (or if I'm ever going to turn the ringer back on).

  5. Andy Livingstone

    A puzzle

    Does the Information Commissioner have a phone at home or a mobile in his pocket. If he does why does he sit waiting for reports? Then take the length of time equal to having a baby before acting. Or is he the only person in the UK who NEVER gets nuisance calls? While the rest of us are TPS registered AND use call-blockers and still get the calls.

    I'm looking for a gentle undemanding night-watchman type of job. So when does he retire?

    1. Ledswinger Silver badge

      Re: A puzzle

      Does the Information Commissioner have a phone at home or a mobile in his pocket........

      Whilst I share your exasperation with the ineffectual process, it is worth noting that the information commissioner himself is "only" paid £140k or thereabouts. Probably more than most of us earn, but nowhere near enough for the head of an organisation to police personal data in every sector of the economy. And his biggest stick is a measly half million quid penalty, so even against rich fucktards like Talk Talk he can't inflict any real pain. And to add insult to injury, the ICO don't get to keep the penalties, they go straight to the treasury (the ICO is funded by the law abiding data controllers through their notification fee). So the ICO can't recycle the penalties into additional enforcement, and thus have no incentive or interest in ensuring the revenues are collected.

      Unfortunately, years of desperately poor law making means that to change all of this we need new primary legislation and the repeal of large tracts of dross passed without thought by the chimpanzees of Westminster. I can't see that happening, and we'll have to see how the incoming EU directive works (I'm an outer myself, but fully expect the elderly and gullible to be frightened into voting "stay", and the net result to be to stay, so I'm assuming it will apply).

      1. Lars Silver badge

        Re: A puzzle

        "the ICO don't get to keep the penalties, they go straight to the treasury".

        There are those who think it's as well that the Police dosn't get the "ticket" money directly, but what do they know.

        1. Ledswinger Silver badge

          Re: A puzzle

          There are those who think it's as well that the Police dosn't get the "ticket" money directly, but what do they know.

          Do pay attention - local enforcement do get to keep (eg) speeding fines and spend it on more enforcement and road safety actions, subject to certain rules. That's why most speed cameras are painted bright yellow, as a way of mitigating the risk of revenue raising through stealth cameras. Other regulators (eg OFGEM) use their monetary penalty powers to fine energy companies (around £200m in the past five years) and direct that money towards energy efficiency actions. There's other examples you can find without too much effort.

          But anyway, am I to take it that you prefer the current arrangement of an ineffectual and underfunded civil regulator, whose operating costs are paid by the law abiding data controllers?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Companies like this aught to be publicly shamed as well.

    For example:

    Forced them to put up signs outside any of their buildings (offices/showrooms etc) to state that the company has been recently fined, and why.

    Any phone lines used to contact the company, should have an automated recording telling all callers what type of company they are calling, before putting the call through to the company itself.

    Make the length of time this is done, say 1 to 12 months, dependant on the severity of the infringement.

    Just a thought anyway :-)

    1. PNGuinn Silver badge

      "Any phone lines used to contact the company, should have an automated recording telling all callers what type of company they are calling, before putting the call through to the company itself."

      Great idea. Now about 1 day per call made? or do you think that's too easy on them?

      And add the directors' phone numbers to the list - on pain of contempt of court.

      And ban the b*****ds fron ever holding a directorship again - even abroad. If they do they'll get nicked if they return to blighty.

      El Reg - we need a hang 'em, draw 'em, quarter 'em icon NOW.

    2. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

      Spray can + paint = ?

      What's to stop a citizen getting organised Banksy style?

    3. Lars Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      @AC. Like in the good old days?

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stocks

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_humiliation

  7. MR J

    They need to change the way these things work.

    The phone provider should carry some form of burden I think. These guys use VoIP providers and change ownership or fold the company really fast to avoid these fines. Laws should be changed. If a phone provider can see millions of calls going through that last for only seconds, then they should flag it. Perhaps there should be some form of retainer fee put in place before a business like this can be allowed to make so many phone calls.

    I would like to see the penalty go up, and see some compensation go back to the customers who receive such calls. The company should have all owners/directors put on a list stating that if they open another business that does this then they would see criminal prosecution.

    The "Green" industry is the same in the UK. So many of them start up and fold within weeks... But if you want to get the "Deal" that the gov is offering you are forced to pick someone off of the list. It is just the way the UK works. It is just like when all the Quango's were "axed"... Many did not go away, they just changed so that profit went back to private hands instead of the Gov...

    Perhaps we can do away with the ICO and find a few more people with Wheelchairs that some money can be taken away from.

  8. BurnT'offering

    Dangerous drivers get banned from driving

    Nasty dog owners get stopped from owing dogs....

    I'd ban these buggers from access to anything more hi-tech than a spiral notebook and a BIC biro

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