By Oliver Grazebrook and Ezra Steinhardt
On 20 March 2013, the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) announced that it had issued a fine of £90,000 against DM Design, a Glasgow-based kitchen and bedroom fitting company, for breaching the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) by making thousands of unwanted direct marketing calls. This fine, made two years after the ICO was first granted the power to issue fines of up to £500,000 for serious breaches of the PECR, apparently marks the start of a new enforcement campaign against companies breaching the PECR. The ICO stated in its announcement that the fine against DM Design will not be “an isolated penalty,” and confirmed that twelve other companies also are now under investigation for direct marketing breaches, and that two of these will apparently receive “significant penalties” over the coming weeks.
Under the PECR it is illegal to make direct marketing calls to people who have directly told the caller that they do not wish to receive such calls, or to people who have registered with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS). The ICO’s investigation found that DM Design consistently failed to check whether individuals had opted out of receiving calls, and that the company also continued to make unwanted calls in breach of the PECR. In one episode, on receiving a request to remove an individual user’s details from the system, a DM Design employee refused, and instead threatened to “continue to call at more inconvenient times like Sunday lunchtime.”
The ICO’s efforts to monitor compliance with the PECR have intensified over the last year. In March 2012, the ICO installed an online reporting tool on its website, which has received nearly 140,000 complaints in its first year of operation. Nearly 2,000 complaints focused on DM Design, and these were likely the trigger for the resulting investigation and fine.