Direct Assist Ltd fined £80,000 for TPS Breaches
Article added: 01/04/2015
Direct Assist Ltd (a personal injury claims company) has been fined £80,000 by the ICO for making direct marketing calls to people without their consent.
Between January 2013 and July 2014, the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) together with the ICO received 801 complaints about the company which offered access to solicitors for personal injury insurance claims.
Every complaint received came from someone who was registered with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS).
One complainant who was elderly and deaf said the conduct of the callers left them in fear of answering the phone that they relied on to maintain contact with family. Direct Assist continued to call despite being given this information.
Steve EckersleyHead of Enforcement at the ICO
An ICO investigation discovered Direct Assist instructed its staff to deliberately use phone numbers from lists they knew included people on the TPS and they did not screen them before calling. The company also had no formal staff policies and procedures to ensure compliance with the Privacy and Electronic Communication Regulations (PECR). The business even claimed the calls were being made by someone else using their company name.
Direct Assist were caught up in a scandal in 2012 when it was discovered that they were processing stolen patient data for accident claims. Martin Campbell, an employee at Direct Assist, was obtaining stolen patient data from his then girlfriend Dawn Makin and calling them to sign them up for a personal injury claim. You can read more on that here.
Steve Eckersley, Head of Enforcement at the ICO said:
“Direct Assist’s behaviour shows a blatant disregard for the law and the customers they tried to contact. Even though the TPS contacted them 525 times to warn them about complaints being made they continued to market their services through unsolicited phone calls.”
“This penalty sends a clear message that this type of irresponsible marketing is totally unacceptable. Companies need to think about their responsibilities, the law and the consequences if they try to break it.”
All Direct Assist had to do was screen their data against the TPS by using a service like that offered by TPS Services.
Richard Lloyd, executive director of the consumer group Which?, who chaired the nuisance calls taskforce, said:
“This company has driven a coach and horses through cold calling rules and it’s good the ICO has acted decisively. We want to see more fines when the rules change next week to make it easier for regulators to punish firms making these calls.”
“We also want to see senior executives held personally responsible for their company’s behaviour on nuisance calls, which could include disqualifying company directors if they flout the rules.”
Following service of the final notice by the ICO on Direct Assist, and at the request of HMRC, the company has now gone into liquidation and the ICO intends to register as an unsecured creditor in an attempt to obtain the fine.
The ICO has published detailed guidance for companies carrying out marketing – explaining their legal requirements under the Data Protection Act and the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations. The guidance covers the circumstances in which organisations are able to carry out marketing over the phone, by text, by email, by post or by fax.
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