Information Commissioner's Office
ICO fines four firms targeting people with home improvement predatory marketing calls
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has fined four companies a total of £370,000 for making over 820,000 home improvement predatory marketing calls to people registered with the Telephone Preference Service.
The ICO started its proactive investigation into predatory marketing calls generated by the sector in 2020, after vouchers of up to £5,000 were offered to home owners to improve energy efficiency.
As the ICO had previously seen with “green scheme” and other initiatives, complaints soon came in from people who had been called regarding loft, window and wall insulation. All of the complainants were registered with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS), a statutory register of people who have said they do not want to receive marketing calls. Many of the complainants were vulnerable or elderly, with some having ongoing health conditions.
The ICO investigation found the companies were deliberately or negligently flouting electronic marketing laws to make a profit. Some of the companies also used different trading names, this is illegal.
Andy Curry, Head of Investigations yesterday said:
“The complaints we received showed that people were distressed, upset, worried and inconvenienced by the calls. For people to feel this way, in their own homes where they should feel safe, is unacceptable.
“These companies all aggressively pestered people, including some vulnerable individuals, forcibly trying to make them buy products that they didn’t need or want. All of the calls were driven solely by the companies wish to make financial gain.
“We will continue to take strong action to protect the public by investigating and taking enforcement measures against companies where we find that they have flouted the law.”
Details of the fines
The ICO enforces the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations, which cover the rules for organisations wishing to make live direct marketing telephone calls.
Live marketing calls should not be made to anyone who has registered with the TPS, unless they have told the caller that they wish to receive calls from them.
Eco Spray Insulations Limited based in Eastleigh, Hampshire made 178,190 calls to TPS registered people and was in the top 20 most complained about organisations to the ICO for three months in 2020. The company used data sourced from two brokers but failed to carry out any due diligence checks or screen against the TPS register. The ICO investigation found Eco Spray deliberately made calls for financial gain, were ignorant of the law and had inadequate record keeping. The company has been fined £100,000.
Euroseal Windows Limited based in Newcastle-under-Lyme made 169,830 calls to TPS registered people in 2020. The company sourced data from door to door canvassers and four brokers. The ICO investigation found Euroseal deliberately made the calls to generate income and failed to keep a record of people who did not want to receive calls. The company has been fined £80,000 and issued with an enforcement notice.
Green Logic UK Ltd based in Derby made 11,825 calls in 2020 using data sourced from a number of companies. The company assumed the data was compliant with the law but did not check and used three different names when making calls. Green Logic failed to engage with the ICO and continued to make calls while the investigation was ongoing. The ICO also found Green Logic’s calls were misleading and persistent, and all made for financial gain. Green Logic has been fined £40,000 and issued with an enforcement notice.
Posh Windows UK Limited based in Stoke-on-Trent made 461,062 calls between August 2020 and April 2021 using details sourced from a data marketing company. During the investigation Posh Windows made various claims regarding its compliance with electronic marketing laws but was unable to provide any evidence in support of this. The company’s responses to the ICO were vague, evasive and contradictory. Posh Windows has been fined £150,000.
Examples of some of the complaints received include:
“I have terminal cancer and am currently having chemotherapy treatment. I told them this the first time they called … Our number is also registered with the TPS.”
“It is hard enough looking after someone with Alzheimer's Disease without having one's time wasted by spurious sales messages, particularly after having deliberately registered with TPS.”
“Called a 93 year old lady in poor health these calls really upset and worry her.”
“Asked to speak to Mrs XXX who happens to be my late mother who passed away over 10 years ago as the loft insulation needs to be surveyed as it may cause problems. They called 3 times. This was distressing as they were asking to speak to my late mother. Surely being on the TPS register should stop these calls and they need to be prosecuted.”
“… They knew my name, my address and my telephone number. This is my recently deceased mother's house that I have just inherited in the last few months. It was extremely upsetting to have someone deliberately cold-call me.”
Advice for members of the public
To help you, your friends and relatives stop predatory marketing calls you can:
- Register landlines and mobile numbers with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) free of charge. The TPS is a register used by legitimate marketing companies to identify people who have said they don’t want to receive marketing calls. Alternatively, you can tell the company directly that you do not wish to be contacted;
- Report any nuisance calls you continue to receive to the ICO using our online nuisance calls reporting tool.
- Refer concerns that you or someone you know has been the victim of fraud to Action Fraud (in England, Northern Ireland and Wales) and Police Scotland (in Scotland); wider concerns about a business’ practices can be referred to Trading Standards; any abandoned calls that you receive to Ofcom;
- If your loved one is particularly vulnerable – for example, if they have dementia or other underlying health conditions – then you can speak to their telephone network to see what call blocking solutions may be available to support them. Many of these services are provided free of charge.
Every complaint counts, with the ICO issuing over £2.8 million in penalties against rogue companies responsible for nuisance calls, texts and emails in 2021/22 alone. Some of these investigations began with a single complaint from a member of the public. The ICO routinely works closely with other regulators and industry partners to share intelligence and take targeted action against companies and directors responsible for initiating nuisance calls.
For more information about the ICO’s work to tackle nuisance calls visit ico.org.uk/nuisancecalls.
Notes to Editors
- The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is the UK’s independent regulator for data protection and information rights law, upholding information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals. It has its head office in Wilmslow, Cheshire, and regional offices in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast.
- The ICO has specific responsibilities set out in the Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA2018), the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA), Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR), Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003 (PECR) and a further five Acts / Regulations.
- The ICO can take action to change the behaviour of organisations and individuals that collect, use and keep personal information. This includes criminal prosecution, non-criminal enforcement and audit.
- The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) give people specific privacy rights in relation to electronic communications. There are specific rules on: marketing calls, emails, texts and faxes; cookies (and similar technologies); keeping communications services secure; and customer privacy as regards traffic and location data, itemised billing, line identification, and directory listings.
- The ICO has the power under PECR to impose a monetary penalty on a data controller of up to £500,000. It can also apply for court orders for winding-up companies and, by working closely with partners, get directors disqualified. More details of this work are available here.
- Any monetary penalty is paid into the Consolidated Fund, which is the Government’s general bank account at the Bank of England, and is not kept by the ICO.
- To report a concern to the ICO telephone our helpline 0303 123 1113 or go to ico.org.uk/concerns.
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