Cold Caller Complaints Information Commissioner's Office

Cold calling complaints and fines – coverage in the Daily Mail

Under the law, people should only receive automated unsolicited cold calls if they explicitly opt-in and give companies their permission to call them in this way. This is of course something that nobody, in the entire history of the universe, has ever done.

For “live” calls from actual people, an opt-out system is in place and people can register their numbers on a range of databases to avoid receiving these calls –  the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) is the most notable such database. Again, firms should check against this database and never phone people on these lists.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has powers to fine companies up to £500,000 if they don’t obey the respective opt-in and opt-out systems. People with concerns about automated calls should complain direct to the ICO on their website, whilst those concerned about live calls should complain first to the TPS and then, if problems continue, take it to the ICO.

The law in this area, in short, is quite strong. But how does it operate in practice?

In a Written Parliamentary Question I drafted (see here), we asked the Culture Secretary exactly how many complaints the ICO received since 2008/09, how many fines were issued, and how many fines were of the maximum amount of £500,000. Here’s the answer he gave, broken down by whether the complaints or fines related to automated or live telesales calls:

Financial Year Auto Calls Complaints Auto Calls Fines Live Calls Complaints Live Calls Fines
2008/09 1.902 0 1.642 0
2009/10 1.677 0 1.769 0
2010/11 1.745 0 1.706 0
2011/12 3.680 0 1.685 1
2012/13 82.803 0 31.662 2
2013/14 74.024 0 56.269 2
2014/15 80.188 0 75.082 4
2015/16 (to Sept 15th) 37.942 1 42.950 2

None of these fines, incidentally, were for the full amount of £500,000! These findings received coverage both in BBC News and the Daily Mail.

I think the key reason these figures are so dismal is probably because the ICO doesn’t have much information to work with when people make complaints. Cold callers – especially automated ones – aren’t liable to give away any information which would identify them. I imagine that most of the complaints the ICO receives are quite vague and can’t be investigated further.

Comments are closed.

Go to top