Regulation 

Rogue bosses of cold calling firms to face new fines

Rogue bosses of cold calling firms to face new fines

Bosses of companies which plague people with unsolicited cold calls could be fined as much as £500,000 under new government proposals to make them personally liable if their firms break the law.

At the moment only companies can be fined but directors remained untouched.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) revealed last week it recovered only 54 per cent of the £17.8m in fines issued for nuisance calls since 2010 because companies go into liquidation to avoid big penalties.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport launched today (30 May) a consultation on giving the ICO new powers to be able to fine rogue managers.

Margot James, minister for digital and the creative industries, said nuisance calls were a "blight on society" and the government was "determined to stamp them out".

She said: "For too long a minority of company directors have escaped justice by liquidating their firms and opening up again under a different name.

"We want to make sure the Information Commissioner has the powers she needs to hold rogue bosses to account and put an end to these unwanted calls."

If these changes are introduced, companies may have to pay a maximum of £1m if both firm and director are punished.

Steve Wood, deputy commissioner at the ICO, said the regulator has been calling for a change to the law for a while to deter those who deliberately set out to disrupt people with troublesome calls, texts and emails.

A similar measure was presented to Parliament in January by Stephen Kerr, Conservative MP for Stirling, in a 10-minute motion.

He will present a bill designed to ban nuisance calls in July, which calls for three measures to be introduced: making penalties more robust to widen the way they can be applied; making directors of companies personally liable for fines for nuisance calls; and tighten up on the definition of a nuisance call. 

This follows latest estimates by Ofcom showing British consumers were bombarded with 3.9 billion nuisance phone calls and texts last year.

According to research from Aegon, consumers were bombarded with 2.2 billion nuisance calls and texts in the last year.

The government is also introducing a ban on cold calling in relation to claims management services through the Financial Claims and Guidance Act 2018.

This ban could be implemented by June, since HM Treasury introduced a new amendment to the bill stating that the regulations underpinning the ban should be made by the minister before the end of that month.

But some experts have warned that the cold-calling ban will not stop pension scams because scammers will find different ways of contacting their victims.

maria.espadinha@ft.com