Security

Just 99.5 million nuisance calls... and KeurBOOM! A £400K megafine

That'd be 0.4 pence a call – if anyone ever paid it

By John Leyden

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A UK firm found responsible for orchestrating 99.5 million nuisance calls has been fined a record £400,000 (US$517,550) by the Information Commissioner’s Office.

Keurboom Communications – which has been placed in liquidation in a move that means it’s unlikely that the fine will be paid – was issued with the ICO’s highest-ever nuisance call fine after more than 1,000 people complained about automated calls.

The calls, made over an 18-month period, punted services related to road traffic accident claims and PPI compensation. Some people received repeat calls, sometimes during unsociable hours. Keurboom routinely hid its identity, making it harder for people to complain.

Companies may only make automated marketing calls to people with their consent. Keurboom did not have consent of the recipients of its intrusive marketing efforts, leaving it in breach of the law.

Steve Eckersley, head of enforcement at the ICO, said: “Keurboom showed scant regard for the rules, causing upset and distress to people unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end of one its 100 million calls.

“The unprecedented scale of its campaign and Keurboom’s failure to cooperate with our investigation have resulted in the largest fine issued by the Information Commissioner for nuisance calls.”

During the investigation, the ICO issued seven information notices ordering the company, which is registered in Dunstable, Bedfordshire, to provide information to the regulator. When it failed to comply, Keurboom and its director, Gregory Rudd, were prosecuted and fined at Luton Magistrates’ Court in April 2016. Following the ICO’s investigation, Keurboom was placed in voluntary liquidation.

The ICO is committed to recovering the fine by working with the liquidator and insolvency practitioners.

Eckersley added that although Keurboom calls have stopped, its work in tracking down other companies that "blight people’s lives with nuisance calls, texts and emails” will continue.

Rudd, at Keurboom, hardly seemed repentant though when he was door stepped by a hack from The Mirror, and suggested the ICO should have fined his customers rather than his company.

"My customers, they're the ones that should be targeted rather than my company," he said. "We are a telecom provider, so we provide dialling capacity.

"What people do with that is up to them - of course, the bulk of it is telemarketing calls.”

The Direct Marketing Association welcomed the enforcement action against a rogue practitioner.

Mike Lordan, director of external affairs at the DMA, said: "We applaud the work of the Information Commissioner's Office in their work against rogue marketers who do nothing for consumers and give the legitimate industry a bad name. We hope that in the future rogue marketers will face the real threat of prison when abusing consumers in this way, which will be an effective deterrent."

In 2016/17, the ICO had its busiest year for nuisance calls enforcement, issuing 23 companies a total of £1.923m ($2.49m) for nuisance marketing.

The previous record nuisance call fine came in February 2016, when the ICO fined Prodial, a lead generation company, £350,000 ($453,000) for making 46 million nuisance calls. Prodial was also put into liquidation in response to enforcement action.

The ICO’s powers will be further strengthened with a new law allowing it to fine the company directors behind nuisance call firms. Making directors responsible will stop them avoiding fines by putting their company into liquidation, according to the ICO.

Last October, the ICO fined TalkTalk £400,000 ($517,560) under the Data Protection Act for failing to prevent an attack on its systems. ®

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