Yesterday, the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO)
fined a Glasgow based firm £80k for making over 109,000
nuisance calls to people registered with the Telephone Preference
The infringing company, Xternal Property Renovations Ltd (the
company) made a total of 109,726 unsolicited calls to subscribers
who had registered with the TPS. Between the period of August 2015
and April 2016, the ICO received over 130 complaints in relation to
the company on the basis of unlawful direct marketing calls.
What is direct marketing?
Direct marketing is a communication (by any means) of any
advertising or marketing material which is directed to particular
individuals. Direct marketing is not limited to advertising goods
or services for sale and also includes promoting an
organisation's aims and ideals (i.e. raising support, donations
or fundraising). The reference to "any means" covers not
only the traditional forms of communication such as telephone,
e-mail and post but also social media and texts.
What is the TPS?
The Telephone Preference Service (TPS) is a register of
'phone numbers of subscribers who have notified the TPS that
they do not wish to receive unsolicited calls for direct marketing
purposes. Essentially, TPS allows individuals to 'opt-out'
of receiving marketing calls. Businesses who carry out direct
marketing by telephone can subscribe to TPS for a fee and receive a
monthly list of numbers on the register.
What did the ICO say?
The ICO fined the company £80k and issued them with an
Enforcement Notice preventing the company from using (or instigate
the use of) a public electronic communications service for the
purposes of making unsolicited calls for direct marketing purposes
where the called line is that of:
a person who has previously notified the company that such
calls should not be made on that line; and / or
a person who has registered their number with the TPS at least
28 days previously and who has not notified the company that they
do not object to such calls being made.
Ken Macdonald, Head of ICO Regions in Scotland commented on the
decision and noted: "Nuisance marketing, whether it's
by calls to people's landline or mobile, or through spam texts,
causes disruption, annoyance and, in the worst cases, serious
upset. We issue fines like these to firms behind nuisance marketing
to send a clear message that such action will not be
Planning a marketing campaign?
If your organisation is planning a marketing campaign –
make sure it complies with the rules on privacy and data
protection. Some may argue that the company got off lightly in this
case with a £80k fine, as the ICO can issue a monetary
penalty of up to £500k.
Screen the list of people your organisation plans to contact
against the TPS register and don't contact them by telephone if
they are on it. As well as the TPS there are an array of other
preference services including: (i) the mail preference service;
(ii) the fax preference service; and (iii) the e-mail preference
service. If the individual isn't on a preference service but
informs you that they don't want to be contacted for marketing
purposes, then don't contact them.
Make sure that your campaigners know the law. You need the
consent of the individual to contact them for the purposes of
direct marketing and you need their consent to contact them by that
specific means of contact – express opt-in consent is
required for electronic marketing communications whereas direct
mail can be sent with implied consent or on the basis of the
legitimate interests condition – at least until May
The material contained in this article is of the nature of
general comment only and does not give advice on any particular
matter. Recipients should not act on the basis of the information
in this e-update without taking appropriate professional advice
upon their own particular circumstances.
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