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ICO clamps down on nuisance calls, slaps £90k fine on Glasgow firm

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A Glasgow company that deliberately nagged households with nuisance calls has been fined £90,000 by Britain's data protection watchdog.

DM Design had annoyed the hell out of thousands of people by making nuisance marketing calls to their home telephone numbers.

The Information Commissioner's Office said that the regulator and the Telephone Preference Service had received nearly 2,000 complaints about the outfit.

It was repeatedly found to have made marketing calls without first checking if people on the other end of the telephone had opted out of receiving such messages and only responded to a small number of gripes it received.

The ICO said that DM Design was "in clear breach of the [2003 Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations] law".

It was also apparently found to have employed bizarre tactics against some of the people who had moaned about the calls.

The watchdog noted one incident where a worker at DM Design refused to remove a complainant's details from the firm's system. Instead the employee threatened to "continue to call at more inconvenient times like Sunday lunchtime”.

The ICO said that the £90,000 fine was the first such monetary penalty it had slapped on a nuisance call company for breaching the PECR.

In November last year, the regulator fined two owners of a rogue marketing firm for spamming UK mobiles with millions of texts over the space of three years.

They received a massive £440,000 penalty when the ICO made its first use of new powers gained in to levy heavy fines for serious breaches of the UK's PECR against the two owners of Tetrus Telecoms, Christopher Niebel and Gary McNeish.

And the clampdown on nuisance call outfits will continue, the ICO warned. It said that two other companies have already been told that significant fines could be imposed within the next few weeks for violating the PECR.

It added that 10 other firms were being investigated for cold-calling and sending spam text messages.

"Today’s action sends out a clear message to the marketing industry that this menace will not be tolerated," said Information Commissioner Christopher Graham. "This company showed a clear disregard for the law and a lamentable attitude toward the people whose day they were disturbing. This is not good enough."

The ICO and communications watchdog Ofcom - which is responsible for regulating silent calls - are planning to write a joint open letter to the marketing industry reminding companies that they need to comply with the law.

"This fine will not be an isolated penalty," Graham added. "We know other companies are showing a similar disregard for the law and we’ve every intention of taking further enforcement action against companies that continue to bombard people with unlawful marketing texts and calls."

If nuisance call outfits fail to operate within the PECR regulations then the ICO has powers to levy fines of up to £500,000. Ofcom, meanwhile, can whack penalties of up to £2m over breaches of rules linked to abandoned and silent calls.

The ICO is also urging people to fill in an online survey where they can complain about such unwanted texts and calls. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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