Company bosses could face £500,000 fines in nuisance calls crackdown


Rogue company bosses could face fines of up to £500,000 if their firm is behind nuisance calls under a Government move to clamp down on the problem.

Firms could already be fined if they were found to have breached the rules, but the people running them could try to dodge the penalty and set up a new company.

From spring 2017, a change in the law will mean directors will be held personally responsible and both them and their companies can be fined, facing combined penalties of up to £1 million.

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) will be able to impose the fines if firms and the people running them are found to be in breach of the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations.

The move has been welcomed by the information watchdog while consumer group Which? hailed the move as a "massive victory" following its campaign on the issue.

Under the current system, only businesses are liable for fines and many try to escape paying the penalty by declaring bankruptcy - only to open up again under a different name.

Digital and Culture Minister Matt Hancock said: "Nuisance callers are a blight on society, causing significant distress to elderly and vulnerable people.

"We have been clear that we will not stand for this continued harassment and this latest amendment to the law will strike another blow to those businesses and company bosses responsible."

Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said: "The people running nuisance call companies have little regard for the anxiety and upset they cause all in the name of turning a fast profit.

"We are inundated with complaints from people who are left shaken and distressed by the intrusion on their daily lives.

"We're quick to fine the companies responsible but we've been speaking to the government about going further than that because we must do all we can to help protect people from these calls.

"Making directors responsible will stop them ducking away from fines by putting their company into liquidation. It will stop them leaving by the back door as the regulator comes through the front door."

The ICO has issued fines totalling almost £3.7 million to companies behind nuisance marketing.

This year alone, the ICO has fined firms responsible for more than 70 million calls and nearly eight million spam text messages.

Alex Neill, Which? managing director of home and legal services, said: "This is a massive victory for the hundreds of thousands of people who supported our nuisance calls campaign.

"It's good to see the Government has listened to consumers and will be introducing new rules to hold company directors to account.

"This legislation will stop rogues dodging fines for bombarding consumers with nuisance calls and side-stepping the rules by closing one business and re-establishing a new one."