The UK’s privacy watchdog has fined five companies over £400k after they deliberately targeted the elderly with “predatory” and “coercive” marketing calls in order to sell them unnecessary insurance.
After receiving complaints from members of the public, as well as consumer groups like Which?, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) began investigating a number of firms that were calling people to sell insurance products or services for white goods and other large household appliances, such as televisions, washing machines and fridges.
Many of the complainants said the people receiving the calls were vulnerable, with some having been suffering with dementia or other underlying health conditions.
The investigation found that these companies were deliberately targeting these people by buying marketing data lists from third parties, specifically asking for personal information about people who are aged 60 and over, homeowners and with landline numbers.
The evidence gathered suggests these firms were either working together or using the same marketing list to target these people. This resulted in some people losing thousands of pounds for white goods insurance and servicing which the companies often knew they did not need.
John Edwards, UK Information Commissioner, said: “These are unlawful predatory marketing calls that were targeted at some of the most vulnerable members of our society and driven purely by financial gain.
“It is clear from the complaints we received that people felt frightened and distressed by the aggressive tactics of these companies, sometimes giving their financial details just so they could hang up the phone. This is unacceptable and clearly exploitative. It is only right that we take tough and prompt action to punish those companies responsible using our full powers.
“Companies making similar nuisance calls and causing harm to people can expect a strong response from my office. I encourage anyone who is being pestered by other rogue operators, or knows a family member or friend who is, to report them to the ICO and we will step in to protect the public from these invasive calls.”
The ICO is continuing to investigate a number of other companies – in addition to the five fined – that appear to be operating in the same way.