The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and Ofcom have announced an alliance to form a pincer movement against nuisance calls, including demands for a change in the law to make it easier to punish offending firms.
The two organisations have published a joint action plan to tackle the issue, having worked on separate but similar elements of the problem. In the past the ICO focused on nuisance marketing calls and unsolicited marketing texts, while Ofcom dealt with silent and abandoned calls.
So far this has seen a total of £800,000 in fines handed out by the ICO, while Ofcom recently hit TalkTalk with a whopping fine of £750,000 for dropped marketing calls.
Although they have worked together in the past on some schemes, now the organisations will work directly together to form a more proactive alliance, sharing information and creating new policies and technical measures for dealing with nuisance firms directly.
These include ongoing enforcement against non-compliant companies, better tracking processes to find out exactly who is sending unwanted messages and new guidelines for marketing firms on appropriate ways of sending information. There will also be an assessment on the effectiveness of the Telephone Preference Service, which should allow consumers to register to be removed from marketing lists.
Claudio Pollack, Ofcom’s consumer group director, said cementing the partnership with the ICO would lead to a more effective stance against nuisance calls for the benefit of consumers.
Simon Entwisle, ICO director of operations added that the plan shows the organisations “mean business". In a blog post he also outlined further details on action being taken, including demands on the government to lessen thresholds for taking action against firms.
“The law currently requires us to prove that calls or texts are causing substantial harm or substantial distress before we can issue a penalty," he said.
"We’ve provided a business case asking the government to reduce the level of harm, so we need to simply prove annoyance or nuisance before acting."
Mike Lordan, chief of operations for the Direct Marketing Association, said the organisation welcomed the alliance to help stop companies dragging down the industry.
“We welcome recent moves by the ICO and Ofcom that will improve enforcement against rogue companies and lower the threshold necessary for taking action,” he said.
"The regulators already have the powers they need to deal with companies that flout the law; they will now coordinate their efforts better to protect consumers and the legitimate telemarketing and mobile marketing industries alike.”
The action comes amid a growing effort by the government to tackle nuisance calls. Earlier this month a parliamentary committee launched an inquiry into the issue, while the government said yesterday in a wide-ranging communications policy document that dealing with the issue is a top priority.
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