By Christopher Graham, Information Commissioner
At the ICO’s data protection practitioner’s conference this week we’ve been celebrating the success of our long campaign to change the law on nuisance calls and spam texts. Last week the government announced that it is changing the law to make it easier for us to fine companies that break the rules.
At the moment, the ICO has to prove a company has caused ‘substantial damage or substantial distress’ by making their nuisance calls. That’s not easy for us to do, no matter how many people have had their day disturbed by someone offering to sell them solar panels or promising compensation ‘for that accident you had’. The change in the law, coming into effect on 6 April, will mean we just have to prove that the company was committing a serious breach of the regulations.
So who is allowed to phone me?
The law assumes you are happy to receive marketing calls, so any company can phone you up to market their products and services, and they don’t need your permission first. If you don’t want to receive calls, you need to register with the TPS. You can register with the TPS here – don’t forget you can register your mobile phone too.
If you’re registered with the TPS, companies can only phone you if you’ve give your permission. That means being careful with what boxes you’re ticking when you’re signing up to products and services, particularly online. But if you get a call from a company that you don’t think you’ve given your permission to, then let us know.
Do the tougher laws apply to text messages too?
Yes. The change in the law makes it easier for us to fine the companies behind spam text messages too. The law is already stricter here: any company sending you a marketing text without your permission is already breaking the law.
If you get a message, and you didn’t give your permission, let us know.
So what does the ICO do with complaints?
So far we’ve been able to raid offices and call centres, prosecute people and issue £865,000 worth of fines. But we want to do more. The law changes announced today will help us to make more fines stick, and more fines should prove a real deterrent to the people making these calls.
Does that mean we’ll see more fines soon?
We’ve been pushing for this change for two years, and we’re sure it will make a difference. But we can only fine companies that we can prove committed serious breaches of the law after the rules change on 6 April- so we certainly won’t be issuing a fine on 7 April.
What we can do straightaway is collect evidence, and that’s why we need people to report calls and texts to us. We can then start investigating cases, and ultimately issuing penalties.
And between now and April we’ll continue fighting this problem using the tools we have at present – look out for the enforcement action we’ve got lined up very soon against a company that sent nuisance text messages linked to pension savings.
This blog is an updated version of ‘Four things that could change if it’s easier to fine firms behind nuisance calls and texts’
|Christopher Graham, Information Commissioner, has a range of responsibilities under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, the Data Protection Act 1998 and related laws.|
Last updated 04/03/2015 11:00