back to article Cold call bosses could be forced to cough up under new rules

The UK government is planning to make company directors personally liable for nuisance calls – two years after it first promised the powers to the data protection watchdog. At the moment, the Information Commissioner's Office can only hand out fines to companies that make spam marketing calls. Under the new plan, announced …

  1. }{amis}{ Silver badge
    Pirate

    Fines??

    These kinds of gits need a proper ironic justice to be served something like a decade's unpaid work on AOL tear 1 support.

    I guarantee anyone that survives something like that will never want to look at a phone again!

    1. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Fines??

      "a decade's unpaid work on AOL tear 1 support."

      Or spell-checking comments on elReg ;)

      1. ArrZarr Silver badge

        Re: Fines??

        To be fair, that could just be a pun. Makes a nice change from calling it the helldesk.

        1. }{amis}{ Silver badge
          FAIL

          Re: Fines??

          Nope, my spelling is just that bad I still make these mistakes even when I am running Grammarly to try to clean up.

        2. Velv Silver badge
          Headmaster

          Re: Fines??

          "AOL tear 1 support"

          I just assumed it was a Ffeudian slip

  2. 0laf Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Good news everyone

    I hope they get it and that one day they can chase directors for non-criminal breeches as well.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Good news everyone

      "[...] and that one day they can chase directors for non-criminal breeches as well."

      You mean like flares?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Good news everyone

        Britches please.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Good news everyone

          "Britches please."

          Fig leaves?

      2. 0laf Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Good news everyone

        I'm really not doing well today with the old English and spelling.

        1. Teiwaz Silver badge

          Re: Good news everyone

          I'm really not doing well today with the old English and spelling.

          Old English is hard(er). Aim for current English for less of a ribbing.

          1. 0laf Silver badge
            Headmaster

            Re: Good news everyone

            I earned that ribbing dammit. I'll take it and enjoy it!

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Good news everyone

            "Old English is hard(er)"

            The "Breeches Bible" is so called because that version of the Geneva bibles translated Adam & Eve's fig leaves as making "breeches". The King James Version opted for "apron".

        2. Gotno iShit Wantno iShit

          Re: Good news everyone

          I'm really not doing well today with the old English and spelling

          Going through a bad spell?

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Good news everyone

        No No. Flares are criminal.

      4. Teiwaz Silver badge

        Re: Good news everyone

        "[...] and that one day they can chase directors for non-criminal breeches as well."

        You mean like flares?

        Yeah, but in America it's all pants....

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why put it in the PECR? Surely any director that has committed fraud not covered by criminal law (pilfering pensions etc..) should also be made to be liable after closing a company to avoid returning money.

    Also, the director (who we know are scumbags anyway) will transfer wealth to a family member and declare bankruptcy. They are happy to be disqualified as a director so it shouldn't really bother them.

    1. AndyMulhearn

      Having watched a bit of daytime TV recently, this seems like a case for application of the proceeds of crime act. Unless that applies only to criminal cases which as IANAL I don't really have a view on.

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Money owed to the ICO is just a debt and debtors are protected by bankruptcy law. Do you think the lawmakers knew this when they drafted the law? They surely wouldn't want a toothless regulator, would they?

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "They are happy to be disqualified as a director"

      Citation required. Remember that simply putting up someone else as a front is an offence that can carry a gaol sentence.

      1. Rustbucket
        FAIL

        "Remember that simply putting up someone else as a front is an offence that can carry a gaol sentence."

        Snigger. First you have to prove it in court. "Just because the new company is owned by my wife and is renting the same office as my old outfit, doesn't mean I have any involvement in the running of the new company, Your Honour."

        And of course the authorities have to have enough resources to investigate all these shonks. In Australia a royal commission is uncovering all kinds of horrors in the banking and superannuation industries, and the government have cut $20 million out of the regulator's funds in the latest budget.

  4. ' DROP TABLE CommentTards;
    Mushroom

    Split their noses open with a boat hook

    and suck their brains out with a straw!

    1. DJV Silver badge

      Re: Split their noses open with a boat hook

      I hope you don't mean a plastic straw - let's keep it environmental!

      1. Teiwaz Silver badge

        Re: Split their noses open with a boat hook

        I hope you don't mean a plastic straw - let's keep it environmental!

        Cheese straws don't suck.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Split their noses open with a boat hook

          Cheese straws don't suck.

          But they go very soggy when dipped in the pulp of a director's brain.

          1. Teiwaz Silver badge

            Re: Split their noses open with a boat hook

            Cheese straws don't suck.

            But they go very soggy when dipped in the pulp of a director's brain.

            Who dips cheese straws? You want celery, sticks of carrot, a nice spicy tortilla or those nasty biscuits that come with (plastic)cheese dip.

            Snacking on a lot of Directors lately? It can be known to cause something like Mad Cows disease you know....

            - Soylent Green Corp. Health Advisory.

            1. Symon Silver badge
              Unhappy

              Re: Split their noses open with a boat hook

              As any fule kno, brain sucking requires a silver straw.

              "On August 25, 1953, with a cheap jury-rigged hand drill, Scoville carved two holes in Molaison’s skull, one just above each of his eyes. Molaison was given only a local anesthetic, so that he could be awake to report on his sensations when different cerebral areas were stimulated. Scoville lifted up Molaison’s frontal lobes with a spatula and reached far into the center of his brain. Then, using a silver straw, Scoville sucked out fist-size chunks of the medial temporal lobes on both sides of Molaison’s brain. The excised tissue included most of the sea-horse-shaped structure called the hippocampus, as well as the parahippocampal gyrus, the uncus, the anterior temporal cortex, and the almond-shaped amygdala."

              https://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/the-man-who-forgot-everything

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Split their noses open with a boat hook

              "Cheese straws don't suck."

              A Bristol restaurant is replacing one-use plastic straws with pasta ones.

          2. Mark 85 Silver badge

            Re: Split their noses open with a boat hook

            But they go very soggy when dipped in the pulp of a director's brain.

            Wait a minute... they have brains? I'm astounded at this.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Split their noses open with a boat hook

          @Teiwaz:

          "Cheese straws don't suck".

          Obviously you have never tasted one....

    2. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Split their noses open with a boat hook

      pick anything good from the lyrics of "what do you do with a drunken sailor"

      my favorite: "shave his bollocks with a rusty razor"

  5. Jonathon Green
    FAIL

    Follow the money...

    I can’t help feeling that tougher sanctions on cold calling companies (and the people behind them), while always welcome is kind of missing the point.

    What we need are sanctions against companies who seek to *benefit* from the cold-calling, which is to say the ones who commission, pay for, and who’s products and services are promoted by cold-calling. Quite apart from anything else it gives a much easier, more effective recourse against cold-calling originated from overseas. The call centre may be in India but, if it’s promoting/selling something in the UK then there has to be a traceable entity taking the money and supplying the goods and services...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Follow the money...

      "What we need are sanctions against companies who seek to *benefit* from the cold-calling, which is to say the ones who commission, pay for, and who’s products and services are promoted by cold-calling"

      Someone did that to some PPI lawyers. They got fed up of cold callers, and so they played along until they found out the name of the solicitors they were acting on behalf of, and filed a small claims summons against them for the maximum claimable amount. The solicitors settled just before the case was called, if I remember correctly (and their letter of complaint is freely available somewhere online).

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Follow the money...

      Indeed. And you can include the telephone networks in there and make them potentially liable for providing access to the network for known offenders. This is done in Germany and is surprisingly effective at blocking even international dialers.

    3. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Follow the money...

      Why can't we do both? Both the calling company and the client company. There's a symbiotic relationship there that needs to be addressed.

    4. Uberior

      Re: Follow the money...

      Isn't that technically there anyway?

      There is a bit of law, dating from the 1870s, that is still relevant today. It's called "Agency Law" - it essentially means that a company is responsible for the action of its agents.

      The ICO has previously found in my favour when a UK based financial services company has used an opaque marketing company based outside the UK to try and sell me sub-prime credit card.

  6. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

    What's the point? The calls come from abroad from different (random?) phone numbers:

    One I get regularly is: [5 seconds of silence] "Hello?"

    But there is literally no solution to that short of an international police investigation, which is clearly infeasible for what it is.

    1. alain williams Silver badge

      Messing with CLI numbers

      The calls come from abroad from different (random?) phone numbers

      A good start would be severe restrictions on who can set the number displayed by CLI and what numbers they can set it to.

      Just about the only non-people (ie organisations) who should be able to withhold it should be: child line, samaritans & the clap clinic.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Messing with CLI numbers

        "A good start would be severe restrictions on who can set the number displayed by CLI and what numbers they can set it to.

        All the cold calls I get have a CLI of "international". It appears that the call centre - obviously staffed in the UK - is relaying through another country. Annoying as I have international friends who occasionally ring me.

        Another commentard has made the apparently sensible suggestion - fine the companies who act on the leads. All the calls I get would entail a UK company providing the touted service - usually oven cleaning or double-glazing.

        1. Eltonga
          Big Brother

          Re: Messing with CLI numbers

          All the cold calls I get have a CLI of "international". It appears that the call centre - obviously staffed in the UK - is relaying through another country.

          I am sure you are aware that there are call centers in India that are staffed with people trained to speak with a given accent. It is usually done for debt collection as it was seen that talking as the neighbour next door helps in that regard, but may be done for other kind of business too.

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      But there is literally no solution

      Au contraire there are well-established ways of dealing with this kind of abuse, see previous post for an example.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Whilst there is a way of dealing with it, the sheer number of such calls show that it is a woefully inadequate way.

      2. The Nazz Silver badge

        "But there is literally no solution"

        An optional solution :-

        I have made a note of the local C.I.D number, same STD area code.

        I ask the caller if they would kindly ring me back on my business line and give them that number.

        After all, i pay my taxes.

    3. Tom 35 Silver badge

      Only for outright crooks

      Sure the fake "I'm calling from Microsoft" calls. But the ones selling services you can make the customer of the calling service pay. Joe's carpet cleaning and it's owner can pay if they hire an Indian call center to make calls

      .

  7. adam payne Silver badge

    How long does it take to implement something you announced two years ago? OK don't answer that.

    1. lglethal Silver badge
      Trollface

      Government..... Piss-up.... Brewery....

      Fill in the blanks to obtain your answer.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Government..... Piss-up.... Brewery....

        IIRC a Westminster MP was accused of the figurative incompetence. In retaliation the MP then announced a tour round a brewery for MPs - and got the date wrong.

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      And isn't Lord Ashcroft against this kind of regulation? Not that he has any kind of influence…

    3. EnviableOne Bronze badge

      thats nothing, the Thameslink 2000 project (started in 1989) is finally going to be delivered in 2019

  8. JimmyPage Silver badge
    Stop

    But when ?

    Won't be this parliament.

    Won't be the next.

    So that'll be at least 5 years. And that's if a change of government doesn't scupper the whole thing before then.

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: But when ?

      This is a consultation

      As in, "we're thinking we'll get round to doing something, eventually, when we've asked all the lobby groups for permission." Despite the fact that it was supposed to happen two years ago.

      In other words,- total bollocks.

      This is not an announcement of action. It just has been worded to sound like an announcement of action. It's actually an announcement of inaction They've just been waiting for some more long grass to grow so that they have somewhere to kick it.

    2. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

      Re: But when ?

      I believe that the preferred government acronym is NIMTO (Not In My Term of Office)

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: But when ?

      And that's if a change of government doesn't scupper the whole thing before then.

      Do you seriously think that a 'Momentum' Government will make any difference?

      Apart from going cap in hand to the IMF for a few Trillion quid it won't IMHO.

      Jat look at what is happening in Italy and you will get a good idea about what a Momentum Government will look like unless, all the non JC supporting MP's get deselected before the next election...

      No chance of them getting in in my consituency even with a 'foot in the mouth' Government Minister as the sitting MP.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: But when ?

        "Jat look at what is happening in Italy and you will get a good idea about what a Momentum Government will look like [...]"

        The proposed Italian coalition seems to be a populist National Socialist rerun wanting out of the EU. Many of the Tory Party's right-wingers would feel at home in that.

        Populists promise everything to the voters - with little chance of delivering anything but chaos.

  9. Pete4000uk

    Well

    About time!

  10. Prosthetic Conscience
    Joke

    PECR

    Very apt, as those directors are probably PECRs indeed.

  11. jms222

    Clear Eco Systems / Approved Energy Systems

    I actually had one this morning from a lady working for "Clear Eco Systems" wanting to look at my inverter. Yes she was aware of GDPR but since she claimed it was all free and they weren't selling anything...you get the idea.

    So please set your auto dialers to 01484442048 and anything associated.

    1. fluffybunnyuk

      Re: Clear Eco Systems / Approved Energy Systems

      https://ico.org.uk/action-weve-taken/enforcement/mr-alex-goldthorpe-ta-approved-green-energy-solutions/

      lol some people dont seem to get messages meant for them. name and shame i say.

  12. Teiwaz Silver badge

    Proprieter, Ken Clean Air Systems.

    I actually had one this morning from a lady working for "Clear Eco Systems" wanting to look at my inverter.

    Dunno, sounds like a euphemism to me. Are you absolutely sure you weren't being chatted up, or did she ask for your credit card for the next ten minutes...?

    I'd like some Pram please. Chest of Drawers?

  13. S4qFBxkFFg

    There could be the unintended consequence that companies start using local gentlemen of the road as directors. "Excuse me sir, would you like this free crate of cider? Just sign here... excellent!"

    Do Companies House get perturbed if home addresses on the forms refer to particular cardboard boxes in the business's loading bay?

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can it be extended to...

    all that JUNK mail addresed to 'The Householder....'

    Hey Virgin Media, I'm looking at you. You still keep on sending it despite me diligently collecting it and putting it in a very large envelope and posting it back to you without a stamp and marking the contents 'F*** O**'.

    Next time, Maybe I'll coat the insides with some of next door's dog turds.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Can it be extended to...

      You're doing it wrong. Don't bundle but post each one separately back to them... attached to a brick.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Can it be extended to...

      "all that JUNK mail addresed to 'The Householder....'

      Hey Virgin Media, I'm looking at you."

      Back when the senior networks guys used to post in the usenet support groups, I once asked about that. He said it was cheaper to contract a mail drop by area than to pay to have their existing customers excluded. That was probably when they were still called Blueyonder.

  15. Christoph Silver badge

    How about just make it a criminal offence.

    Only a very minor criminal offence of course, with only a very minor punishment.

    One day of imprisonment.

    For each and every separate offence - i.e. for each phone call.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Be careful what you wish for. Imagine if the defendant is ready to argue and deliberate on each and every count and demands a formal reading on each one. They could tie the legal system up for a long time that way. And that's assuming they can catch the person responsible before he absconds to a non-extraditing country.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I wonder if I can take Laithwaites Wine to task for sending me wine offers after I've told them several times I am no longer interested?

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "I wonder if I can take Laithwaites Wine to task for sending me wine offers after I've told them several times I am no longer interested?"

      After a long while Everest seem to have started sending letterbox litter to me - or at least having the Royal Mail deliver them to all local addresses. I'm considering ringing them to send a representative along - who will then be presented with the unwanted mail I wish to return. This, if organised nationwide, would be an effective deterrent as they wouldn't be able to distinguish real leads from complaints.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Because it's simply a lot cheaper to send to everyone indiscriminately than to pay the time and money to winnow things out. Plus they'll probably welcome mail piles since they could just chuck the lot to the Complaints Department. Anything truly serious will require a personal handout so will get filtered that way.

  17. Nonymous Crowd Nerd

    While I agree with following the Money, as suggested by Jonathon Green, another effective route would be to follow the actually call back towards the offending company. In this way if the call centre operator does not pay, or cannot be located, liability passes to the line provider who delivered the call to the victim. This would make BT responsible in most cases, I guess. That would be appropriate and would eliminate most cold calls pretty rapidly, I think.

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