/ Technology

Who is really responsible for a company’s nuisance calling?

Nuisance calls

A whopping £350,000 fine has been issued to a Brighton-based company for making over 46 million nuisance calls. But shouldn’t the company’s directors be held accountable too?

According to the regulator, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), millions of automated PPI claims calls were generated from an untraceable residential property in Brighton.

After more than 1,000 complaints, the ICO found that the Prodial Ltd failed to comply with the rules on the use of consumers’ personal data for marketing purposes, and issued its largest ever fine so far.

The company, however, was placed into voluntary liquidation by one of its directors. The ICO is now working with the liquidators to recover the fine; but this again raises the question of whether company executives should be held accountable for nuisance calls.

Nuisance calling firms

Last year our research found that over three quarters of people in the UK think that the director of a company should be held personally accountable if the company makes calls without the necessary permission. And when we asked the same question in Scotland, nine in 10 people want this too.

Now, as Ian pointed out today:

But enforcement action, such as this one, is commonly taken against the company, rather than an individual company director, meaning that some companies don’t treat compliance with the law around marketing communications as a board level issue.

This is why we want nuisance calls to be a higher priority within businesses.

Calling time on nuisance calls

We want a mechanism to ensure senior executives are accountable if their company fails to comply with the rules on unsolicited communications. Those individuals would have to ensure that the company’s practices are above board or face personal action.

In 2014, the UK Government asked Which? to a chair a taskforce on nuisance calls and texts. The taskforce set out a number of recommendations including:

‘The Department of Culture, Media and Sport, and the Ministry of Justice, should review the ability for the ICO to hold board-level executives to account who fail to comply with the rules and guidance on the use of consumers’ personal data for marking purposes, and amend legislation to give the ICO further powers as necessary.’

Now this record fine may bring executive accountability back on to the Government’s agenda again. But, at the very least, it certainly highlights the scale of the problem of nuisance calls.


So, do you think that company directors of nuisance calling firms should be held accountable?

Comments
Member

Yes, , directors of everything are immune to punishment, , Why is this???
Why is it that a limited company/corporation can have directors who are above the law yet the ordinary man in the street or businessman is held to account for everything no odds how slight

Member

unless they are at Least made to waste lots of there valuable time. they will never realise how much it disrupts disabled people waiting for a valuable call not the sales chatter.

Member

Just do what the US +Canadian governments did and bring in proper legislation that acts in the interests of the people (99 % ) NOT BB !

Member

The use of a company structure to avoid liability for what otherwise would be an offence is a problem. Though corporate manslaughter has been introduced the situation is still unsatisfactory as we know from the Banks and the failure to prosecute for dodgy dealings. The whole area needs to be re-examined as the failure of businesses and the re-purchase of its assets via quick sale to connected parties is yet another problem area.

As to this case the company has barely existed for more than a year and the Registered Address was a residential house in Brighton which was sold last August for £255,000 . I would tell you the names of the Directors but ICO do not show them and I am on the wrong computer to do a search.

Missing from this article is a link to the ICO press release as all the links just take you around Which? pages. I link to the judgement:
ico.org.uk/media/action-weve-taken/mpns/1623627/mpn-prodial-ltd-redacted-web-version.pdf

You may be distressed to note a £70,000 reduction in the fine if they pay early. The logic of giving the maximum amount rather than the acceptable lower figure one might put down to window dressing by ICO. Surely more honest to quote the £280,000 and record an increase for late payment?

One other point that is left in the air is that somebody is paying Prodial for the leads. Shouldn’t we be told which firms/people are encouraging nuisance calls?. A register of who uses who for the benefit of the population?

Prodial UK Ltd is an entirely separate firm currently dormant founded a decade ago. I thought I would add this to avoid potential for confusion. To be honest I thought ICO should have covered that point.

Member

Morning Dieseltaylor, I’ve added that link into the third paragraph.

Member

Your point about the companies encouraging this sort of abuse is shrewd: if there were no financial incentives, these people wouldn’t be operating in the first instance.

Member

According to Companies House records, at the date of liquidation the company owed HM Customs & Excise £60,000 in unpaid VAT. This would suggest sales of at least £300,000.
The Liquidator has valued the company’s assets at just £6,383.

Member

And no government will grasp the nettle and make this behaviour a criminal offence.