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ICO imposes record fine for cold calling

September 30 2015
A Scottish green energy company has been fined £200,000 - the largest fine ever imposed by the Information Commissioner’s Office - for an automated cold calling campaign that targeted over six million consumers in a three-month period.

Cambuslang-based Home Energy & Lifestyle Management Ltd (Helm) were approved by the Government as green energy advisors as a part of the Green Deal, the Coalition Government’s flagship green energy initiative; however, they failed to abide by direct marketing rules when offering ‘free’ solar panels.

“The penalty is for a significant amount because of the company's clear failings.”

Steve Eckersley, ICO’s Head of Enforcement

Under ICO rules, organisations must have a person’s specific permission before making automated calls to them. General consent for marketing calls is not enough. In addition, firms making such calls must also clearly state who they are and provide contact details as part of the call. 

Helm were also found to be misleading consumers, as the panels being offered were not necessarily free.

The ICO received 242 complaints about Helm between October 2014 and December 2014, with one complainant explaining that they couldn’t ignore the phone calls as they were waiting to hear news about a terminally ill relative.

Steve Eckersley, head of enforcement at the ICO, said: "This company's ignorance of the law is beyond belief. It didn't even bother to find out what the rules were and it's badly thought out marketing campaign made people's lives a misery.

"The penalty is for a significant amount because of the company's clear failings, and the number of people affected by its deliberate and unlawful campaign."

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Parliamentary support

“The Ethical Marketing Charter is to be warmly congratulated. It has thrown down the gauntlet to achieve high ethical standards and hopefully other firms are up to the challenge.”

Philip Hollobone MP, Conservative MP for Kettering

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