Company Directors Could be Held Personally Liable for Nuisance Calls

It has this week been announced that bosses of firms who bombard consumers with nuisance calls could be made personally liable and could face fines of up to £500,000. And where a company has more than one director, each of those could be held responsible.

The new government proposals will be consulted on and, if approved, will amend Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations legislation, giving the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) new powers of enforcement.

Still a problem

Last year, 3.9 billion nuisance phone calls and texts were received by consumers.

Under current law the company is liable for any fines if they break the law by making unsolicited calls. To avoid paying the hefty fines, firms have been going into liquidation, with bosses then starting up again under a new name.

By making directors personally liable, the UK data protection watchdog hopes to close this loophole and recover more fines - something they currently struggle with. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said of the £17.8 million fines they have issued in the past eight years, only 54% have been collected.

The Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries, Margot James, said:

“Nuisance calls are a blight on society and we are determined to stamp them out.

“For too long a minority of company directors have escaped justice by liquidating their firms and opening up again under a different name.

“We want to make sure the Information Commissioner has the powers she needs to hold rogue bosses to account and put an end to these unwanted calls.”

ICO deputy commissioner, Steve Wood, welcomed the consultation saying:

"We have been calling for a change to the law for a while to deter those who deliberately set out to disrupt people with troublesome calls, texts and emails.

"These proposed changes will increase the tools we have to protect the public."

Long overdue changes

While this consultation is to be welcomed, it was first promised by the government in 2016 that ‘nuisance call crooks’ would be cracked down on. This was meant to be in force by 2017, but instead the government have been focusing on the recent amendments to the Data Protection Act and GDPR. Hopefully this consultation will be the start of these long overdue changes being introduced.

Andrew Cullwick, spokesperson for First4Lawyers commented:

“This is a sensible measure, and it is about time we saw common sense when it comes to nuisance calls. Too many people have been evading consequences for their actions and if this is introduced it will send out a message to directors who think they can get away with it by just setting up a firm under a different name.”

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