The UK's personal data watchdog has today slammed a Brighton-based firm with its largest ever fine issued for a "staggering" number of nuisance calls.
The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) levied a £350,000 fine to Prodial, which was operating out of a residential property, after the company sent out over 46m calls consisting of automated messages, resulting in complaints from over 1,000 people.
Those who complained said they were called repeatedly and that the message did not provide them with the ability to opt out of communications.
Companies are required gain consent before contacting people using automated marketing messages, but the ICO discovered that Prodial had not obtained such permissions.
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"This is one of the worst cases of cold calling we have ever come across," said Christopher Graham, information commissioner, in a statement published on the ICO's website. "The volume of calls made in just a few months was staggering.
"This was a company that knew it was breaking the law. A company director admitted that once the ICO became involved, the company shut down. That stopped the calls, but we want to send a clear message to other firms that this type of law-breaking will not pay. That is why we have handed out our highest ever fine."
Despite the marketing campaign having the potential to net Prodial nearly £1m, the company has been placed into voluntary liquidation by one of its directors. The ICO is now working with the liquidators to recover the fine.
Commenting on the fine, Richard Lloyd, executive director of Which?, remarked:
Millions of people are bombarded with nuisance calls, so it’s good to see the ICO issuing ever larger fines to tackle this everyday menace.
We now need to see the government introduce tougher penalties for senior executives of companies making unlawful calls including ensuring that board directors are held personally accountable.
Last month, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport unveiled plans to legally force marketing companies to display their telephone number as part of their caller ID.