Board-level executives to be held responsible for nuisance calls

A proposed change to the law will give the ICO more clout to go after firms that bombard consumers with nuisance calls and texts

The government has proposed a number of changes to the law to make it easier for the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to target and take down businesses that bombard consumers with nuisance phone calls and text messages.

The government first proposed to go after nuisance callers in October 2014, when it sought input on lowering the legal threshold at which firms responsible for nuisance communications could be fined.

The current law requires the ICO to prove a company caused “substantial damage or substantial distress” before issuing a fine of up to £500,000.

As of 6 April 2015, the government has now announced, this threshold will be removed, meaning the ICO can intervene earlier and in more cases.

Boardroom blitz

The government also said it would look at introducing additional measures to hold board-level executives legally responsible for nuisance telecommunications.

It will also attempt to introduce mandatory caller line identification and force all marketing callers to display accurate telephone numbers to put an end to number spoofing.

This followed a report from the taskforce – led by consumer group Which? – which recommended a review of the law to act as a stronger deterrent.

“This change will make it easier for the ICO to take action against offenders and send a clear message that harassing consumers is just not on,” said digital economy minister Ed Vaizey.

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“We’re also going to look at whether the powers the ICO have to hold to account board-level executives for such behaviour are sufficient or we need to do more,” he added.

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd described these calls as “an everyday menace blighting the lives of millions” and said it wanted the regulator to send a clear message by using the new powers to full effect without delay.

“It’s also good news that the government has listened to our call and is looking into how senior executives can be held to account if their company makes nuisance calls,” he added.

A survey by Which? found that 80% of people were regularly cold-called, around 33% of whom felt intimidated as a result.

The ICO, meanwhile, currently receives around 15,000 complaints a month, of which solar panel salesmen account for 2,000 and PPI about 1,800, as of November 2014.

The law has already been revised to make it easier for Ofcom to share information about lawbreakers with the ICO.

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