Funeral planning firm fined for cold calling

Funeral planning firm fined for cold calling

Avalon Direct, a funeral planning company, has been fined £80,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office for making 52,000 unlawful marketing calls between March and November 2017.

The company was fined for cold calling people who had made it explicitly clear that they did not want to be contacted.

The ICO launched an investigation into Avalon after a newspaper reported allegations of illegal practice at a call centre in Cheshire, which was run by a company called Plan My Funeral Avalon Ltd.

The company shortly after changed its name to Avalon Direct Ltd and it was revealed that it had made 51,917 calls to people who were registered with the Telephone Preference Service between March 1 and November 20, 2017.

It is illegal to call individuals registered with the TPS unless they have given specific consent. 

Avalon stated it had purchased numbers from a third-party lead provider, but had no specific consent to call people registered on the TPS.

Andy Curry, enforcement group manager at the ICO, said: "The funeral plan industry has been on our radar for a while and it is fair to say the sector as a whole has had some issues in terms of complying with the law.

"That’s not always reflected in volumes of complaints, however, because the very nature of this particular sector means the people being targeted for funeral plan sales may be older, potentially more vulnerable and may not be as technologically savvy or as active online."

The ICO is now asking individuals to check that older relatives, neighbours and friends are registered with the TPS.

"If they have still been getting nuisance calls, they can help report these calls to us as this helps us build up intelligence on companies and sectors where we need to take action," Mr Curry added.

The £80,000 fine must be paid to the ICO by May 15, 2019. However if a full payment is received by May 15,2019 the penalty will be reduced by 20 per cent to £64,000.

The ICO’s investigation into Avalon also found that two of the company’s directors at the time of the contravention, had previously been involved in an unconnected ICO investigation and that the company involved in that case had been fined in January 2018 for carrying out unsolicited direct marketing. These directors are no longer associated with Avalon.

Susan Stevenson, chief executive of Avalon Funeral Plans, said all the recommendations from the ICO have already been implemented.

She said: "During the period being investigated, in November 2017, Plan My Funeral and Avalon Funeral Plans had entered into a joint venture – Plan My Funeral Avalon.

"Plan My Funeral Avalon was, at that time, separately managed and operated by the Plan My Funeral management team.

"Following the event in question, Avalon took immediate action to protect customers by bringing the full operation and management of Plan My Funeral Avalon under direct control of Avalon. 

"They subsequently took the decision to close down the Plan My Funeral call centre. As mentioned in the ICO statement, the two directors of Plan My Funeral Avalon left the company at that time."