IT Protect Fined £40,000 for TPS Breaches and more
Article added: 24/01/2017
IT Protect Ltd have been fined £40,000 by the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) for, amongst other things, 122 complaints made to the Telephone Preference Service (TPS).
IT Protect Ltd was operating a business selling Call Blocking solutions. Companies offering call blocking solutions have been growing in numbers over the last couple of years.
Common complaints associated with these types of companies include:
- Charging consumers a fee to register on the TPS register
- Selling call blocking devices to vulnerable consumers, in many cases targeting the elderly
- Breaking the law by calling people registered on the TPS deliberately under the belief that they are their target market
IT Protect Ltd, based in Bognor Regis, claimed to have purchased opted-in data for their campaigns, but crucially had not carried out any due diligence on the supplier to confirm that the data was actually opted-in. This failure to conduct proper due diligence essentially meant that IT Protect Ltd could not rely upon the alleged opt-ins at all.
It has long since been established by the ICO that relying on your suppliers assertions about opt-ins is not acceptable. You must conduct your own due diligence.
IT Protect had 35 complaints made against them with the ICO and 122 complaints made by people registered on the TPS.
This is the first nuisance calls fine issued by the ICO since it took over management of the TPS.
Steve Eckersley, ICO head of enforcement, said:
“Ironically, this firm was making nuisance calls to people to sell them a call blocking device. But by phoning people registered with the TPS it broke the law and that’s why we’ve issued this fine.”
“Our investigation was aided by members of the public reporting the nuisance calls they’d received from IT Protect to us. They told us the firm had preyed on the elderly and misled people by giving the impression they were working with BT.”
The company appears to have targeted the elderly, pretending to be BT and then attempting to sell them a call blocking solution. Akin to accident companies hanging out at Accident and Emergency wards looking for business, as obvious a target market as it may seem to some of these marketing companies, it’s simply not allowed because you’re targeting people who are potentially vulnerable.
The Privacy Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) states that 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 such calls from them. Companies failing to screen against the TPS, who then call people without consent, can expect enforcement action by the ICO.
Mr Eckersley said:
“Firms must take reasonable steps to ensure the law is followed when they’re buying lists of people’s personal details. IT Protect did not do this, resulting in distress for people receiving the calls – and an ICO fine.”
Complaints made to the ICO about the calls from IT Protect included:
“Alleged to be calling from BT to block unwanted calls at a cost of 45 pence a week. When challenged and questioned he rang off.”
“He claimed to be working with BT…They seemed devoid of any sense of irony in ringing a number registered with the TPS to sell a nuisance call blocker.”
“I answered the call on behalf of my elderly father. She asked for my deceased mother and then my father. She then asked if he was registered with the TPS. I confirmed he was. I was then asked for £1.80 a month to stop phone calls. My father has dementia and would probably have followed their instructions.”
IT Protect Ltd Monetary Penalty Notice as issued by the ICO
The ICO took over responsibility for overseeing the TPS from Ofcom in December 2016. The TPS is a free service that allows mobile and landline phone users to register to opt out of receiving marketing calls.
Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said at the time:
“Transfer of the TPS to us will mean complaints to it about rogue cold callers will be passed even more efficiently to our enforcement officers. That will give us more information about the culprits and help in our bid to come down hard on the law breakers and stop nuisance calls.”
TPS Services Richard Kane said:
“Basic stuff really. The message is getting out there slowly but surely. You can no longer simply buy data without checking its provenance and consent. You cannot use data that has no proper consent and you cannot call numbers registered on the TPS. If companies undertaking marketing could simply get their heads around this, the industry might not be in the firing line quite so often!”