Directors of companies that harass consumers with nuisance calls could be directly liable for fines of up to £500,000 under Government plans that will take effect from spring 2017.
The Information Commissioners Office (ICO) has received over 100,000 complaints about nuisance calls and texts this year alone, and firms that flout the current rules can be fined up to £500,000.
However, many companies have been sidestepping these fines by declaring bankruptcy and then reincorporating under a different name - the problem is widespread, and only £340,000 of the £2.7 million fines issued to date have been paid. Only six fines have been paid in full.
However, the new rules will hold company directors, as well as the company itself, directly to account. Directors could be fined up to £500,000, as could the company, though actual penalties will depend on the circumstances of each case.
Information commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, says: “The people running nuisance call companies have little regard for the anxiety and upset they cause in the name of turning a fast profit.
“We’re quick to fine the companies responsible, but we’ve been speaking to the government about going further. Making directors responsible will stop them ducking away from fines by putting their company into liquidation. It will stop them leaving by the back door as the regulator comes in the front door.”
Minister of State for digital and culture Matt Hancock says: “Nuisance callers are a blight on society, causing significant distress to elderly and vulnerable people. We have been clear that we will not stand for this continued harassment, and this latest amendment to the law will strike another blow to those businesses and company bosses responsible.
“This tough new stance is just one of a number of measures introduced by Government in its ongoing campaign against nuisance callers and work to better protect the personal data of UK citizens.”
Alex Neill, managing director of home and legal services at Which?, which has been campaigning for stronger consumer protection adds: “This is a massive victory for the hundreds of thousands of people who supported our Nuisance Calls campaign. It’s good to see the Government has listened to consumers and will be introducing new rules to hold company directors to account.”
Other government initiatives to cut out the threat of scammers and nuisance callers include forcing firms to display their caller ID and working with Trading Standards to set up call blocking services for vulnerable people.