Information Commissioner's Office
ICO issues its largest fine to tackle illegal pension cold calls
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has fined EB Associates Group Limited £140,000 for instigating over 107,000 illegal cold calls to people about pensions.
The Government banned the practice of making pension cold calls in 2019, to try and stop people being scammed out of their life savings.
As well as a financial penalty, the ICO has ordered EB Associates to stop making further illegal calls about pensions or face court action.
Andy Curry, Head of ICO Investigations, yesterday said:
“Our priority is to protect people and we will always take robust action against companies operating illegally for their own financial gain.
“Cold calls about pensions were banned to protect people from scammers trying to cheat them out of their retirement plans.
“We encourage anyone who receives an unexpected call about their pension to hang up and then report it to us.”
EB Associates came to the attention of the ICO during a wider investigation into organisations making pension cold calls. The company had asked lead generators to make calls on its behalf and paid up to £750 for the referrals.
The ICO investigation showed that the EB Associates-instigated marketing campaign made 107,003 illegal pension cold calls between 11 January 2019 and 30 September 2019. The ICO found that EB Associates did not have the valid consent - freely given, specific and informed – to instigate the making of these calls. The ICO concluded that EB Associates contracted the lead generators to make the calls, knowing the cold calling ban was in place, in order to try and bypass the law.
The ICO continues to work jointly with government and relevant regulators to deliver against this government priority and enforce the law.
Notes to Editors
- The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) upholds information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals. The ICO has specific responsibilities set out in the Data Protection Act 2018, the UK General Data Protection Regulation, the Freedom of Information Act 2000, Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003.
- The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations give people specific privacy rights in relation to electronic communications. There are specific rules on:
- marketing calls, mails, 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 Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations were updated in January 2019, with the inclusion of Regulation 21B, to better protect people falling victim to pensions scams. Under the law, companies can only phone and talk to people about their occupational or personal pensions if:
- the caller is authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority or is the trustee or manager of an occupational or personal pension scheme; and
- the recipient of the call consents to calls, or has an existing relationship with the caller.
- The ICO’s powers under the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations which cover nuisance marketing include issuing fines 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.
- The ICO’s previous fines under Regulation 21B are:
- Civil Monetary Penalties are subject to a right of appeal to the (First-tier Tribunal) General Regulatory Chamber against either the imposition of the monetary penalty or the amount of the penalty specified in the monetary penalty notice.
- Any monetary penalty is paid into the Treasury’s Consolidated Fund and is not kept by the Information Commissioner’s Office (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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