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Nuisance Marketing Calls

Information law solicitor Natalie Ruane looks at complaints made to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) regarding cold callers about pension schemes.

Following the recent change relating to Pensions there has been a record number of complaints made to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) with regards to cold callers regarding pension schemes. Part of the reason for this development is that companies were largely unprepared for the changes and that guidance with regards to whom companies could share the personal data they held about their employees was vague.

However, since the commissioning of a consultation regarding nuisance calls in the previous government, there have been several changes made. For those interested the consultation can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/nuisance-calls-consultation

As a result of the consultation, from 6th April 2015 the ICO has strengthened powers with regards to Data Protection breaches by companies. For example, the fine which companies can now receive in connection with a breach is up to £500,000. Whilst the fine has been increased, the actual hurdle to bring a claim has been reduced, in that there is now no requirement to prove that the ‘cold calls’ cause ‘substantial damage or substantial distress’. It is now sufficient to bring a claim only where the company has committed a serious breach of the law. At the time of writing, it is unclear as to the boundaries of this hurdle.

It will, however, have a huge impact on the ICO’s ability to bring claims against companies failing to adhere to the Privacy and Electronic Communication Regulations (PECR). Undoubtedly the ICO will want to test the new lower threshold in a bid firstly, to publicise the importance of compliance and secondly, to highlight to the various commercial sectors that cold calling is not acceptable.

The new regulation is now in force and therefore all new investigations will be judged on the new lower threshold with the risk of the increased fine.

The ICO maintain that their previous PECR guidance remains applicable and should be followed as good practice. Their guidance can be found at https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/guide-to-pecr/

About the author

Natalie Ruane profile photo

Natalie Ruane

Natalie is a Partner and leads the Employment Law & HR team and specialises in education.

Published: Monday 8th June 2015
Categorised: Information Law

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