Just because the Information Commissioner’s Office can hand out some pretty sizeable fines, doesn’t mean that it actually does.
And that’s the one criticism I have of an agency that, as far as I can tell, does some pretty sterling work in policing the privacy rules here in the UK.
But, in an interesting move, the ICO has perhaps addressed its apparent lack of bite by handing out its record fine, asking a Brighton-based nuisance telephone caller to place three hundred and fifty thousand shiny pound coins on its desk.
Interesting because of the amount you ask?
Well, yes, there is that, but far more interesting is the fact that, despite the size of the ask, the Commissioner may not actually receive enough to nip out and get a Tesco lunch deal.
That’s because the company in question – Prodial Ltd – is defunct.
At the first whiff of ICO interest the business expired. Ceased to exist. It is no more.
The company, which operated out of residential premises in the seaside town, peppered unwitting recipients with some 46 million automated calls related to the PPI claims they may, or may not, have been entitled to make.
Either way, the shady operating practices likely turned over a million quid, according to the ICO.
Nice work – if you can get it – and don’t mind pissing off a large proportion of the mainland in the process.
Talking of which, over a thousand people – which is a minute proportion of those affected – gave the ICO a call of their own to let them know how miffed they were with the situation. The prominent complaints included a doctor who couldn’t help but answer a phone that could have been used to dial in an emergency call, and someone else who claimed they were being called at all hours, day and night.
And of course there was nothing anybody could do about it either, save blocking numbers off – Prodial Ltd, which went to great lengths to obscure its identity, offered no means of opting out of its telephonic spam which, as you may have already guessed, came thick and fast despite none of its victims ever consenting to such nuisance behaviour in the first place.
In a blog post, Information Commissioner Christopher Graham wrote:
This is one of the worst cases of cold calling we have ever come across. The volume of calls made in just a few months was staggering.
This was a company that knew it was breaking the law. A company director admitted that once the ICO became involved, the company shut down. That stopped the calls, but we want to send a clear message to other firms that this type of law-breaking will not pay. That is why we have handed out our highest ever fine.
No matter what companies do to try to avoid the law, we will find a way to act.
So, job done, no more nuisance calls ever again, eh Chris?
I suspect such action, while welcome, will not quell the scourge of unwanted calls so much as encourage those behind them to become a little smarter and far quicker at winding their companies up when the ICO comes knocking.