Energy firm fined for nuisance calls

Updated: 

cold-calling

Thameside Energy, which is based in Manchester, has been fined £45,000 by the Information Commissioner's Office, for nuisance calls. It generated 1,000 complaints over two years - including one from an 80-year-old woman who was being plagued with calls.

So what can you do if you are a victim of cold-calling?

Complaints

The company offers what it calls a 'range of energy efficient improvements'. It hit the radar of the ICO after it was the subject of 1,000 complaints to the Telephone Preference Service between 26 May 2001 and 31 January 2013.

In one case an 80 year old woman told the TPS she had continued to receive calls despite informing the company on 20 separate occasions that they must stop.

The ICO ruled that the company had failed to remove people from its contact lists after they had requested it. It also failed to carry out adequate checks to see whether the people they were calling had registered with the TPS. This is a legal requirement under the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations.

It proposed a fine of £90,000, but after learning more about the company's financial position it reduced the fine to £45,000. Simon Entwisle, Director of Operations said: "This is not the first and will not be the last monetary penalty issued by the ICO for unwanted marketing calls. These companies need to listen – bombarding the public with cold calls will not be tolerated."

So what can you do if you are a victim of cold-calling?

The first step is to register with the Telephone Preference Service. If a company abides by the rules it will check this register before making any calls to your number, so you are protected.

The problem is that there are a number of companies that break the rules. There has been an ongoing debate as to whose fault this is. The responsibility for prosecution and penalties lies with the ICO. However, Entwisle recognises that there are some flaws in the system.

He says: "We are continuing our work with the industry, government and other regulators, including OFCOM, to co-ordinate our efforts to tackle this problem. We would like to see the law changed to make it simpler for us to punish companies responsible for repeated and continuous breaches of the law."

In the interim, if you register with the TPS and you continue to receive cold calls, you should complain to the TPS. You will need to make a note of all the details you can in order to enable TPS to investigate - including who exactly has called, and when they made the call. Then you can report it on the TPS website.

The ICO is also urging consumers to report abuses direct to the ICO on its website.

Investigations will not be overnight sensations, and the system is less than perfect, but as the 1,000 people who complained about Thameside Energy found, if enough people complain, then eventually those who are breaking the law will be punished for it.