back to article ICO to fine UNBIDDEN MARKETEERS who cause 'ANXIETY'

Businesses that send spam text messages, make nuisance calls or carry out other types of unsolicited direct electronic marketing activity could be fined up to £500,000 if their actions cause "annoyance, inconvenience or anxiety", under new plans unveiled by the UK government. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) …

  1. Martin-73 Silver badge

    About bloody time!

    See title

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    More hot air being spouted

    and will be totally ignored by the companied that do this especially if the make the calls etc from outside ther EU. India is a major source of this stuff.

    Can we bring back hanging for these low-lifes? Make an example of a few managers and watch the numbers of call drop.

    Yes, I know this is severe but when OAP's get 10-20 calls a day about PPI/Solar Panels/Fake Accidents/etc/etc/etc it gets beyond a joke.

    anon for obvious reasons. I get enough of this already.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: More hot air being spouted

      Can we bring back hanging for these low-lifes?

      As long as it's by the nuts, or done really, really slowly.

      I love the stipulation that they're not allowed to hide who they are. There is a brutal asymmetry here which helps the criminals: the victim needs to provide credit card details, but there is no compunction for the criminal to supply any data in return to the victim to validate permission for the transaction. Thus, they can pretty much state any BS without any fear for recrimination: by the time investigators get to them they-re long gone, and so is the money.

  3. AndrueC Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Excellent news. Now all we need is someone with the resources and inclination to actually act on reports. The TPS relies on the ICO already and how many fines have actually been levied? According to Wikipedia.:

    "The effectiveness of the TPS is limited. Enforcement is so lax that many organisations completely ignore it and do not check numbers.[3] There is no control over calls from outside the UK; many of the most abusive and sometimes fraudulent calls originate from overseas. A spokesman for the Direct Marketing Association—who run the TPS—said in July 2012 that it had received a dramatic increase in complaints from telephone subscribers cold-called by telemarketing firms, and that some firms simply chose to ignore the rules. The DMA sent between 1,000-2,000 complaints to the Information Commissioner's Office each month, yet no penalty fines had been imposed in at least 18 months"

    Although that 18 months appears to be a note from 2012.

    Huh. Also from Wikipedia:

    "The entire TPS database is now considered compromised, as many sales people and businesses will add potential leads (Your Number) to the TPS database to prevent rival businesses from calling them. Furthermore the TPS organization has no credibility as flaws in their system were pointed out many years ago and nothing has been done about it."

    1. Cthonus

      Given the number of calls I get per week I'd volunteer my services as an enforcer for free at weekends.

      I wouldn't even claim expenses for the baseball bat, or the portable electrodes.

      1. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

        You forgot

        The roll of carpet and the quicklime

        But I'll forgive you.

        1. Captain DaFt

          Re: You forgot

          " You forgot The roll of carpet and the quicklime"

          Oh no, they don't escape this vale of tears and suffering that easily!

          From the movie Wizards:

          Avatar: I got stuff planned for you that'll take twenty years to kill ya.

          Peace: ...no pain...

          ...And you'll be screaming for mercy in the first five seconds.

          (For context, Avatar is the good guy, Peace just assassinated the King.)

          1. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

            Re: You forgot

            And did I say how soon the said items would be needed? No, sirrah, I did not!

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bout bloody time

    Getting bored of cold calls

    "Hi I'm calling on behalf of X can you answer a few questions"

    "I'm registered with TPS, you shouldn't be calling me, could you please remove me from your system"

    "This isn't a sales call, this is just a survey"

    "And at the end of the survey are you going to try and sell me something?"

    "Uhh..."

    A friend of mine used to work at a UK call center who did this, the people you talk to have no way of removing you from the system, or even making a comment, it's a cold call on their end too, they just have an autoconnect, and a name pop up on their screen. They asked their manager about it and was told to ignore the peoples request.

    Complete bullshit, personally I'd rather have a legal requirement that if they cold call you, you have a right to go to the company and throw a brick through the window.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bout bloody time

      "... you have a right to go to the company and throw a brick staff member of your choice through the window."

      Much better!

  5. GregC

    Don't fine them, shut them down

    No messing about, terminate the company with extreme prejudice. Ban all board members/directors from holding that kind of position for, I dunno, ten years. They are scum preying on the vulnerable and deserve to be treated as such.

    In fact, while we're on it, can't we just outright ban cold calling?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Don't fine them, shut them down

      Agreed. Ban cold calls, junk mail and doorstep selling too. But you always get the DMA whining on/lobbying about their apparent benefit to the country from all the sales.

      I see their website isn't working at the moment - so nothing of value has been lost.

  6. Tanuki
    FAIL

    Oh look! A squadron of pigs just flew by.....

    I'll believe it when it happens. Rather than the ICO/DCMS pocketing the cash I think the fines levied should be distributed amongst the complainants - to me that's "restorative justice" and if people realised nuisance-calls could be converted into a steady stream of additional income it might cause more people to complain aggressively/take legal action against the nuisance callers.

    Me? I have been known to reply to nuisance-callers by breathing heavily and asking them what colour bra and panties they are wearing today. This tends to shut them up quickly, specially the male ones.

  7. Come to the Dark Side
    Unhappy

    404

    I get a "page not found" error on the gov.uk website when trying to access the PDF link

    Found the document at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/367498/LOWERING_THE_LEGAL_THRESHOLD__.pdf though

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ICO are a joke. Just ask RevK.

    As the comment on his blog post says, El Reg should pick this story up.

    http://www.revk.uk/2014/10/ico-ignore-1000-complaints-of-calls.html

  9. This post has been deleted by its author

  10. frank ly Silver badge
    Flame

    ... " likely to cause annoyance, ..."

    It bloody well does cause annoyance! Just ask me. I'll tell you if they need to be strung up or not.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Name and Shame

    A weekly update in all the national news-papers naming those companies guilty of this. That way everyone knows who the b'stards are and they can be avoided like the plague that they are.

    The more they spam people, the less business they receive (hopefully) until they and the entire industry gets the message.

  12. hi_robb

    Good

    Let's hope they do use their teeth to hit these spamming cuntflap fuckwits where it hurts.

    Their pockets.

  13. Gerry 3

    Just forward all your junk calls to Sajid !

    Whenever I receive a junk call, I just say the the person they asked for has moved, and that their new number is 020 7219 7027 !

  14. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Fines can be another revenue stream.

    As we've found out here in the States, not only local authorities with speed traps, but finally the Feds are getting into the act. Just enforce and collect...

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If you know the company name, or the real number

    If you know the company name then you can find out who the directors are, and what the directors addresses are.

    This used to be a for-money option (the data is published at Compannies House, but involves paying a small fee).

    The paid-for Companies House data is now available for free via websites like opencompany.org.

    Some of these scammers do actually make calls with a valid ID, and a little research can reveal quite a lot. More info when I get home (don't have the details with me at work).

    Obviously it would be inappropriate for me to encourage any discourteous action.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Here's some I prepared earlier re an 0843 scam (1 of n)

      http://www.ofcom.org.uk/static/numbering/#special has a list of which telco issued any given 08xxx number.

      08430 50 xxx is issued to Invomo Ltd (according to Ofcom).

      Normally I'd add caveats here about how Caller ID can be faked, and how the company issuing the number isn't the same as the company making the calls, but in this case we're talking about Invomo, and I've seen more than enough info to suggest they are not following the necessary best practices within the industry (to put it politely).

      Feel free to look up Invomo on the web e.g.

      https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=site%3Awhocallsme.com+invomo

      Then politely let them (and the Information Commissioner's office) know that someone is either faking one of Invomo's numbers and using them for illegitimate purposes, or is genuinely using one of Invomo's numbers and using them for illegitimate purposes.

      People have been locked up for running scams along these lines. And rightly so.

      Here is Invomo's LinkedIn page, they have 9 employees on LinkedIn, please don't spam them: https://uk.linkedin.com/company/invomo-ltd

      Invomo are now actually part of GCI Ltd, www.gcicom.net. Please don't spam them either. You can call them on 0844 443 4433. Their website may even have a complaints contact (it should) - but I can't get there from here just now.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Here's some I prepared earlier re an 0843 scam (2 of n)

      According to Companies House, Invomo Ltd is apparently still trading, and their published registered office is in Lincoln (2 Crofton Close, LN3 4NT) according to Companies House.

      If any readers happen to be passing that way and would like to offer Invomo any messages on behalf of the general public, it would be much appreciated.

      Companies House hold other information about UK companies including the names of the directors. Various websites offer this information but want you to pay for it. A few offer the same information for free.

      One website where you can find the names of past and present directors of Invomo Ltd, and also the names of other companies registered at the same address, **for free**, is

      https://www.opencompany.co.uk/company/06267056/invomo-limited

      GCI Telecom and various others are registered at the same address as Invomo: 2 Crofton Close, LN3 4NT (it's an industrial unit).

      Please be respectful with them, as they are with us.

  16. The Axe

    Greenpeace

    A sign that the ICO has balls would be if they went for Greenpeace and fined them. Greenpeace's standard operating procedure is to create anxiety with every single one of their marketing campaigns.

    1. Graham O'Brien
      FAIL

      Not electronic but

      could they please go after the TV licensing reminder people who regularly send me bits of paper saying I'm facing a £1000 fine - but only in very small letters underneath explain that it's if I use a TV without a licence. I wonder how many older people with poorer eyesight have been caused great anxiety by this shoddy tactic?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not electronic but

        Same here. I have a TV but I don't require a license for the way I watch stuff. However, that doesn't stop "them" sending me numerous letters (which get binned without even being opened) and sending one of their lily-livered henchmen to my property last year. I did NOT invite him in (they have no legal authority to enter - a court order is required if they REALLY want to) and sent him packing without explanation. The whole harassment thing has just started again.

        1. Vic

          Re: Not electronic but

          sending one of their lily-livered henchmen to my property last year.

          They sent one to my house a few years back. I countered with dumb insolence, telling the guy that I had all the licencing I needed, thankyouverymuch.

          He got more and more angry. I thought he was going to have a fit. Eventually, he bothered to ring his office, who confirmed that I did already have a licence...

          Vic.

        2. Gerry 3

          Re: Not electronic but

          Just formally withdraw their Implied Right Of Access to your property. You don't have to give your name, you can sign it as 'The Occupier'. Nor do you have to state whether you have a TV set or watch TV as it is broadcast.

          For good measure you can add that any further threatening letters (e.g. to send the boys round 'just to confirm that you don't need a licence') will contravene the Malicious Communications Act 1988 because (1) you've withdrawn their Implied Right Of Access and (2) you are completely familiar with the law so there's no need for them to keep telling you.

          You'll never be harassed again.

    2. Omgwtfbbqtime Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Greenpeace

      Meh, try asking the WWF if you can have the skin of your sponsored snow leopard once it passes on from natural causes. No sense of humour some people.

      They also are unable to answer how much of the money will actually go to the snow leopard problem and how much to servicing the debt on their spangly new headquarters -hint £15million mortgage.

  17. James 100

    Statutory penalty/damages, or strike off the directors

    I'd love to see a short-code we can dial after receiving nuisance calls, anonymous or otherwise (even "anonymous" calls are still known to the network, it's just hidden from ordinary users). Trivial for the telcos to identify the worst offenders for ICO, who could then hit them with 6 or 7 figure fines each time - and, more importantly, disconnect the company from the telephone network and Internet. Re-offend, the company should be dissolved with all assets forfeit.

    Time to ban companies from using 141 or equivalent, too - that prefix should only be permitted on residential lines/accounts, not business. I'm not at all convinced of the merits of allowing individuals to make anonymous phonecalls, particularly at no extra charge - for commercial purposes, there's really no excuse at all.

  18. Gerry 3

    Yes, order all UK telcos to offer a memorable free code (e.g. 1-7726, 1-SPAM) which can be dialled immediately after receipt of a nuisance call, automatically reporting it to the ICO and adding it to the victim's 'Choose to Refuse' list. Much quicker and easier than having to go online and report it to the ICO, especially when the number is withheld and/or the organisation name is obviously fake, e.g. 'UK Consumer Centre' or whatever.

    However, individuals must have the right to withhold their number. Otherwise dodgy companies could refuse to answer your complaint call, or they could recognise you as an existing customer and not give you any special offers. That already happens online if you don't clear your cookies !

  19. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Doesn't go nearly far enough

    1: Doesn't establish per-call statutory damages

    2: Doesn't allow a right of private action (smallclaims)

    3: Doesn't hold the calling company AND THE COMPANY WHO HIRED THEM jointly and severally liable.

    4: Doesn't establish a damages multiplier for wilful breaches (breaching TPS, calling after being told not to, etc)

    Until those are incorporated, this will continue to be useless legislation.

    I've had several govt officials claim that allowing a private right of action would logjam the small claims courts - my question "If things are that bad, why aren't large prosecutions underway every week?", gets a studied silence and/or fob-off.

  20. dephormation.org.uk
    Meh

    "likely to cause annoyance, inconvenience or anxiety".

    The only thing "likely to cause annoyance, inconvenience or anxiety" to the ICO data protection racket is the fear that they might actually have to do some proper work for a change.

    Instead of photocopying boilerplate rejection letters fobbing off complainants, and always refusing to enforce the law.

    Watch as they do nothing with their new powers, and find a new excuse for inaction.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ICO = I Cannot Officiate

    'Scuse anonymity but this is an ongoing case. (Hopefully...)

    Recently I've had the same two phone numbers calling constantly every day, despite me asking them to stop. So I reported them to the ICO and got this rather disheartening reply:

    1. I have been unable to verify if telephone XXXXXXX belongs to YYYYYYYYY Ltd

    2. Unfortunately on this occasion we have been unable to identify the organisation that has called you. It can be very difficult to identify the organisations making these calls in individual cases, as the organisations responsible often do not provide genuine names or contact details and often cannot be traced solely on the basis of the telephone number used.

    Gee. People flouting the regulations not giving their correct name. How unsporting of them.

    I thought it would be fairly simple. Find out who got allocated XXXXXXX to resale and either get them for aiding and abetting or force them to hand over details of the subscriber.

    This august and venerated body is just as toothless and impotent as the ASA. Sod immigration, I bet there's a lot more votes to be made in shutting these scammers down and giving the electorate peace at night than for ejecting some desperate family from these shores...

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