Companies that make nuisance calls and send spam texts to face fines of up to £500,000

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The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has today announced that it plans to introduce changes that will make it easier for the Information Commissioner’s Office (“ICO”) to take action against companies that make nuisance calls and send spam text messages.

Marketing by telephone and text message is governed by the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) which impose obligations to obtain prior consent before making automated marketing calls or to send marketing texts or emails to individuals. In addition, organisations are prohibited from making live marketing telephone calls to any individuals who have opted out of receiving them (for example, by registering with the Telephone Preference Service).

Under the current law, the ICO has the power to issue monetary penalties of up to £500,000 only where the marketing calls or messages cause, or have the potential to cause, ‘substantial damage or distress’.  The changes proposed by the Government mean that in future the ICO will no longer have to prove that messages are causing damage or distress, with the result that the ICO will have the power to intervene in many more cases. 

The Government has also confirmed it will look at introducing measures to hold board level executives responsible for nuisance calls and texts.

The changes are set to come into effect on 6 April 2015.

For more information on the Government’s proposals, click here.