back to article Just 99.5 million nuisance calls... and KeurBOOM! A £400K megafine

A UK firm found responsible for orchestrating 99.5 million nuisance calls has been fined a record £400,000 (US$517,550) by the Information Commissioner’s Office. Keurboom Communications – which has been placed in liquidation in a move that means it’s unlikely that the fine will be paid – was issued with the ICO’s highest-ever …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fining the directors?

    Following through the links, it isn't clear if the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations were actually amended to give the ICO the power to go after the directors. This was supposed to be in place by "Spring 2017".

    Is it? Or just another thing that ministers promised but were far too busy to actually deliver, and now they'll forget about it because they're busy pissing around with another election?

    1. DailyLlama
      Big Brother

      Re: Fining the directors?

      Politicians failing to deliver on a promise? Whatever next?!

    2. Smooth Newt
      Happy

      Re: Fining the directors?

      Or just another thing that ministers promised but were far too busy to actually deliver, and now they'll forget about it because they're busy pissing around with another election?

      "far too busy" is far too generous IMHO. Political parties in the UK are almost exclusively funded by donations, and the current (and next) administration are particularly dependent upon donations from companies and their directors. So why would they piss these people off by making them liable for something? Ditto making them pay more tax, get fewer peerages etc.

  2. 9Rune5
    Black Helicopters

    I just called, to say...

    "The ICO’s powers will be further strengthened with a new law allowing it to fine the company directors behind nuisance call firms."

    So, can this be weaponized, BOFH-style, to put one or more directors in the red?

    I'm asking out of ...curiosity. Yes, that is it: curiosity.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We dumped our landline ...

    2 years ago.

    The only downside has been no nuisance calls.

    1. ArrZarr Silver badge

      Re: We dumped our landline ...

      That's an interesting way to spell "Benefit"

    2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: We dumped our landline ...

      I have replaced landlines with SIP lines partially since mid-2005 and completely in 2007. Initially with SipGate (before they decided that abusing customers is a good strategy), now with Teleppliant.

      I have had 2 or 3 nuisance calls via GSM gateways in 10 years. None of the usual bulk dialing ambulance chasing variety. You get those ONLY if you have a proper landline because the dialers and the main telcos operate the scam jointly. The only reason the dialer intermediary is able to offer its scumbag customers the rate they need to run the scam, is because they GOT a reduced termination wholesale rate (quite often along with customer data) from BT, Virgin, Sky, or TalkTalk. So, in fact, these are openly complicit in the scams - they get line termination fees on them and offer special rates to companies they know are likely to need them for bulk dialing.

      Due to VOIP being predominantly business service, the VOIP providers do not sell data and/or reduced termination rates needed for the scams to work. So you do not get the calls.

      1. inbox0011

        Re: We dumped our landline ...

        BT should be fined too - it must become very obvious to BT that a company is doing automated spam calls on their lines and they could have an automated blocking system that operates immediately.

      2. MR J

        VOIP

        I use VoIP too, (Quality is not great on Virgin Media), and got DID numbers, I often get phone calls from the scam nuisance variety that this type of company was making.

        I don't think that it is targeted for specific carrier blocks (Unless it is a targeted scam against a specific carriers customers, like TalkTalk) but they generally go for every "geographic" type of number that is out there.

        My DID number for the USA gets the odd scam call too, totally different type of stuff on that than the UK one.

      3. Nick Kew Silver badge

        @Voland

        I'm with sipgate. They're annoying when they change things so as to break my configuration (like, the number that shows up on caller id), but I wouldn't call it abusing customers. What's the story?

        I get a few nuisance calls, though a drop in the ocean compared to what I get on the mobile.

        1. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

          Re: @Voland

          I have my SIP with A&A ISP, not a single nuisance call in past 3 years (i.e. when I moved to SIP). And the reason to switch was, you gussed it, an awful volume of nuisance calls on my landline. What annoys me now is that, landline or not, BT is still making profit from me, because they are the network operator.

      4. TheVogon Silver badge

        Re: We dumped our landline ...

        "You get those ONLY if you have a proper landline because"

        I havn't have a landline for over 10 years. I still get assorted spam calls to my mobile number ever though its on the no spam preference list that they should be checking. Using the Truecaller app reduces those to a bearable amount.

        I usually tell those that do reach me that I'm an investigations officer for the ICO and would like to talk about where they got my number from - that usually gets rid of them pretty quickly...

    3. VinceH Silver badge

      Re: We dumped our landline ...

      "2 years ago."

      I did away with mine much longer ago than that and just rely on my mobile - but that's where I (sometimes) get nuisance calls. Since adding it to the TPS list the problem has mostly gone away.

      I did get an one today, though - and searching online for the telephone number reveals it to have come from an outfit called Galaxy Numbers Ltd.

      The caller was ringing me about my business line because, she said, my business has been flagged up as "newly registered"

      Well, yeah quite new - I only started a mere 28 years ago. What she really meant was that it had newly appeared on her list of numbers to call, which she isn't checking against the TPS list.

  4. Stuart Halliday

    We need a secure caller display system

    If they couldn't fake or withhold their numbers, we'd be in a better position to complain.

    How about a complaint button that logs the call with your telephone provider who then has to publish the list.

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: We need a secure caller display system

      No. We need to fine the incumbent telcos which sold this guy reduced wholesale termination rate double the amount. Each. Then it will go away.

      1. Roger Lipscombe

        Re: We need a secure caller display system

        Forget fines. Jail time.

        1. sabroni Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: We need a secure caller display system

          Forget jail. Chop off the goolies!

          1. Captain DaFt

            Re: We need a secure caller display system

            "Forget jail. Chop off the goolies!"

            Nah, hit'em where it'd really hurt; Ban them from any director/management position for a minimum of 5 years.

            Let'em work counter at Starbucks or McDonalds for that time, betcha they never re-offend!

        2. quxinot

          Re: We need a secure caller display system

          Fine the company. Four events within a year that are significant enough to result in fines should comfortably bankrupt and close the company.

          The entire CxO team gets a minimum 30 day jail stay on the first offense.

          I'm waffling on if the shareholders should be billed on a per-share basis, additionally. This might focus the mind of the guys running the show, and could be expanded into other markets. It seems like the top office jobs are operating at a silly risk:reward ratio. If they get fired, they get a big bag of cash. If they don't get fired, they get a big bag of cash. Wouldn't it be nice to see some repercussions involved for screwing over their customers, employees, and often the general public?

    2. Warm Braw Silver badge

      Re: We need a secure caller display system

      We need a secure signalling system first...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: We need a secure caller display system

      I seem to recall that forwarding the nuisance number to SPAM (numbers on your keypad, don't have mobile to hand) then that number is recorded and investigated when a threshold of complaints is reached...

    4. This post has been deleted by its author

    5. Gerry 3

      There IS a Complaint Button

      Or rather, a facility code. It's 1477, Anonymous Call Trace. It stores the offending caller's real number at your exchange for subsequent investigation / action, even if the number was withheld. (Withholding the number only prevents it being disclosed to the called party: it's still transmitted all the way to the destination exchange.)

      But good luck in getting it enabled on your line, your telco probably won't even have heard of it.

  5. low_resolution_foxxes

    His address will be public. Can we crowd source 100m letters through his postbox? You know, he seems to enjoy this kind of thing.

    1. Kevin Johnston

      Better yet

      Add him to as many mailing lists as you can locate plus get his phones added to the calling lists? Sauce for the goose etc.

    2. Alan J. Wylie

      His address will be public

      He seems to have had several addresses, all in the same area of a certain university city. The question is which is the most recent and whether it is still valid? Has he been renting accommodation?

    3. Smooth Newt
      Happy

      100m letters

      His address will be public. Can we crowd source 100m letters through his postbox? You know, he seems to enjoy this kind of thing.

      He may well do, since white letter waste paper currently sells for £195 - £205 a tonne.1 100m letters = 200,000 reams at, say, 5lb each = 500 tonnes@£200 = £100k. Plus the envelopes.

      1http://www.letsrecycle.com/prices/waste-paper/uk-domestic-mill-prices/2016-domestic-mill-prices/

  6. alain williams Silver badge

    0.4p per call ?

    How much were they paid per call - the fine should be closely related to that.

    Getting the fine from the directors: how about using the proceeds of crime act ?

    1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      Re: 0.4p per call ?

      how about using the proceeds of crime act ?

      I was thinking about that, or similar. A director is legally responsible for what goes on in the company - and there is absolutely no way whatsoever that a director of a company like this could not know exactly what was going on. AIUI, "limited liability" stops when the company is acting illegally with the director's support.

      All it needs is some creative use of existing law. This sounds like yet another case of "can't be ar**d using the laws we have, so lets have some new ones".

    2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: 0.4p per call ?

      proceeds of crime act

      This applies only to criminal offenses. Unfortunately, DPA violations are not a criminal offense. Yet.

  7. Adrian 4 Silver badge

    I'm all for going after his customers too

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Yes. He was correct to some extent when he said the customers were to blame. It should be easy to easy to get the billing records from the "telco" and then go after the scammers.

  8. TheProf
    Facepalm

    Godwin's law

    "My customers, they're the ones that should be targeted rather than my company," he said. "We are a telecom provider, so we provide dialling capacity.

    We were only obeying orders!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XfbiStS1kG4

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The ICO’s powers will be further strengthened

    no, they won't. And while the gov.gov.gov bangs on about how they will be able to go after the directors as of spring 2017, well, it so happens we're almost out of spring 2017 and we hear the usual waffle about how ICO are commited, how the gov's commited, how every-fucking-body is commited and oh, the company's gone into liquidation. When I was commited, almost two years ago, I did SOMETHING - disconnected my landline. They are doing fuckall and pay themselves handsomely for that.

  10. Derichleau

    Had the organisation stayed in business, all those affected could have claimed compensation under Section 13 of the DPA. The Court of Appeal disapplied Section 13(2) of the DPA so we no longer have to demonstrate financial damages before a judge will consider distress.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      it'd be nice if the DPA and other legislation had statutory minimum damages per offence. It'd make going after these scammers a lot easier.

  11. adam payne Silver badge

    "My customers, they're the ones that should be targeted rather than my company," he said. "We are a telecom provider, so we provide dialling capacity.

    "What people do with that is up to them - of course, the bulk of it is telemarketing calls.”

    You seriously believe that you hold no responsibility for this at all?

    If your customers are doing things that aren't legal and are using your platform then sorry pal but you are responsible.

    Did you not look into the legal side of things before you starting offering your dialling capacity to these people?

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "If your customers are doing things that aren't legal and are using your platform then sorry pal but you are responsible."

      Be careful what you wish for. Unless you want postal services to be liable for letter bombs too. Especially considering how UK.gov, like most governments, tend to kneejerk and overreact so as to be seen to be "doing something". Gun laws, knife laws, Photographers being hassled, not to mention anti-terror snooping legislation being used to check peoples bins or where school pupils live.

  12. This post has been deleted by its author

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yay Dunstable is (in?)famous...

    Not often Dunstable makes the news. Shame its for this.

  14. localzuk

    Can't pay?

    So, when fined, the company just shuts down and the fine doesn't get fully paid. Fining the directors is good, but I'd hasten to add another potential punishment - ban the director from being able to run a company for 10 years or something if they can't pay.

    There needs to be real consequences, rather than headlines.

    Rudd can simply move and re-open shop again after his company is gone. Nothing stopping him doing it all again.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Can't pay?

      Trouble is, those with the money also know how to keep their money: mostly by finding ways around the regulations and rules. Such as changing identities or fleeing to a different sovereignty.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Can't pay?

      "ban the director from being able to run a company for 10 years or something if they can't pay."

      These people get around bans easily. They just place a family member or close friend in the position then run the new business as a manager "under" the named director.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Can't pay?

        "then run the new business as a manager "under" the named director."

        That's actually a criminal offence - the problem is detecting it.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    New ICO proposal, fines applied with a baseball bat.

    see above

  16. tedleaf

    I've found that threatening to visit their car park with a chainsaw to remodel their cars seems to work in a lot of cases..

    Or I have told them that the mobile number they are spamming is meant to be only used to report incidents/accidents relating to herbicide/insecticide spraying worked as well,told them they where causing heart attacks due to it only meant for dire emergencies !!!

    That one was actually quite apologetic and did remove that number from lists...

    Or as someone else said,tell them.your an ico emoyee or police officer in fraud squad seems to get results sometimes.

    Their spouting bs,so I reckon it's perfectly fair to do the same back..

    One local to me,Watford area,is due a visit to their car park soon with my saw,screaming Mimi..

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