ICO granted new powers to fine nuisance callers
The process for fining firms responsible for cold calls and nuisance SMS messages will become simpler under significant changes to the law. Current legislation was perceived to be a 'licence for spammers and scammers' according to Christopher Graham, Information Commissioner, in a speech earlier this month.
In his speech, Mr Graham appealed on behalf of the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) for greater powers to enforce the law and protect the public. 175,000 complaints were made to the ICO in 2014 regarding nuisance calls and messages.
Under the existing law, a complainant is required to demonstrate that 'substantial damage or substantial distress' was caused by a call before the ICO can issue a fine. The new changes, coming into force on 6 April 2015, will remove that requirement, granting the ICO the power to determine whether a breach of sufficient severity to warrant a fine has taken place.
Only 9 prosecutions have been successfully made under the current law, prompting the Government to take action and lower the test.
The changes have been welcomed by Which?. Richard Lloyd, the Executive Director of the consumer organisation chaired the task force responsible for investigating the problem of nuisance calling. The task force's report, published in December 2015, preceded increased pressure for change. Mr Lloyd argued that unwanted cold calling was 'blighting the lives of millions', adding:
"If we get the regulators, the government and the telecoms companies working together on this we think we could start seeing a rapid decline in calls but that's going to take a while."
The ICO will be empowered to issue fines of up to £500,000 against cold-calling companies who breach the regulations.