back to article Brit firm fined £200k for banging on about missold PPI in 11.4 million nuisance calls

A Leeds-based claims management firm has been fined £200,000 for making more than 11 million unwanted PPI calls, the UK's data watchdog announced today. The investigation, prompted by complaints to the Information Comissioner's Office (ICO) and the Telephone Preference Service (TPS), found that Brazier Consulting Services Ltd …

  1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. Robert Grant Silver badge

      Re:

      This title got approved?

  2. Velv
    Childcatcher

    "the commissioner found that 11,489,873 were made for the purposes of marketing "claims management services" leading to 316 complaints to the ICO and TPS."

    So only 316 people bothered to complain, a simple form on the ICO website. Seems the ICO needs to do more to publicise complaining about telephone spam and make the public more aware they shouldnt expect to put up with these calls

    1. monty75

      Maybe people are just aware of the pitifully tiny fine likely to be imposed and the minimal likelihood of it being paid versus the company shutting up shop and starting again under a new name.

    2. ahnlak

      Would that be the form that asks for the number that called you (which is routinely spoofed) and the company making the call (who generally lie or refuse to tell you unless you play along long enough for them to think you might take the bait)?

      Sure, we could all do that for every spam call we get and six months later (if we're lucky) the ICO will turn around and say there's not enough information to pursue. And then on the rare occasions they actually get around to doing their job, they issue an insultingly tiny fine like this.

      If the ICO actually wants to stop this, they need to impose company-closing fines, hand out director bans and maybe send a few folk to jail. That *might* be a touch more effective than billing them fractions of a penny per call.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        The fines don't cut it - these companies simply see that as the cost of harassing us (I refuse to call this "business").

        Unfortunately my suggestion of sentencing to include the mandatory insertion of a cactus where it would impede comfortable sitting was not accepted, despite its likely effectiveness in preventing recurrence and the general feeling of satisfaction experienced by their victims.

        It certainly would beat the cost of £0.018/call which strikes me more as an encouragement than a deterrent..

    3. Ramis101

      The fact that only 300 odd people could be arsed to complain is explained by the pitiful penalty handed down. I mean, what's the point of that is all they get?

    4. Noram

      I used to fill in the form on a regular basis.

      The problem as has been said is that the companies spoof their caller id (which the form asks for), use different names when you ask who they are initially unless you spend a lot more than a couple of minutes on the phone (which given they tend to call when I'm in bed/exhausted is not going to happen), and then on the rare occasion that the commissioner takes action the fine is tiny and rarely stops them from just starting up under a different name.

      Make the senior staff all personally responsible, ban them from ever working in the telecoms, legal or financial professions again and make it a criminal offence for repeat offenders and it may actually get some teeth.

      I've commented a few times on various places that the only positive from Covid is that last year the number of these calls I had dropped through the floor for a while, oddly enough about the same time the UK call centres were shut down/limited to essential services.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        "oddly enough about the same time the UK call centres were shut down/limited to essential services"

        I've suspected for a while that the real way to stop these kinds of calls would be to employ a few hitmen to knock on the doors of the company directors concerned, making it clear that they have a nice family and if they would like to continue having a nice family they need to stop the behaviour

        Then again, if they keep it up, they'll eventually reach someone sociopathic enough to do society such a favour for free

    5. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      > So only 316 people bothered to complain, a simple form on the ICO website

      So how many people should complain before they would be bothered to do anything?

      I complained once to ICO and that was a waste of time.

    6. Alan Brown Silver badge

      More and more people are using crowdsourced reject lists.

      Samsung phones have them built in now and there are androids apps like Call Control as well

      it wuld be more useful for the ICO and Ofcom to gather reports from these systems but "Not invented here" and "chocolate teapots" spring to mind - these regulators primarily exist in the UK for appearances, not actual consumer protection

  3. alain williams Silver badge

    1.75 pence/call - fine not large enough

    The fine should be against the firm owner personally so that s/he cannot avoid paying by just folding and creating a new firm tomorrow.

    .

    BTW: Why does El-Reg not name these reprobates ?

    1. Alistair Wall

      Re: 1.75 pence/call - fine not large enough

      https://find-and-update.company-information.service.gov.uk/company/10531983/officers

    2. PeterM42
      Trollface

      Re: 1.75 pence/call - fine not large enough

      They do:

      Brazier Consulting Services Ltd

      Legal services in Morley, England

      Address: 7, Victoria Court, Bank Square, Morley, Leeds LS27 9SE

      Hours: Open ⋅ Closes 5PM

      Phone: 0113 457 2681

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    £200K

    Just a business cost.

    1. Adelio Silver badge

      Re: £200K

      Which they will NOT pay!

      1. Robert Grant Silver badge

        Re: £200K

        Perhaps we need to start ringing them constantly. Have you been missold ICO fine protection insurance?

  5. This post has been deleted by its author

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fine isn't good enough.

    I don't think there is a fine large enough to deter this. I think the solution is to round up those responsible for the calls, surgically implant a mobile phone into their ear canals and call them every 10 minutes for the rest of their lives with the same recorded message 24/7.

    1. oiseau Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Fine isn't good enough.

      ... don't think there is a fine large enough to deter this.

      Yes, there is: a really good portion of the involved CEOs money.

      To quote myself:

      It is quite evident that the only way to get this sort of behaviour to stop is to take draconian measures, of the sort these outfits will not be able to recover from.

      Because, yes, they still have the databases and will be selling them on.

      The UK's data watchdog should heavily fine the company responsible for this scam as well as the outfit/s on whose behalf they were made ie: the end beneficiaries of said scam.

      But not just the company/ies: all the members of the board at the companies involved, from CEO down.

      And if they ever get caught in something like that again, barred from sitting on a board for the next 10 or 15 years.

      Any other action by the autorities is, as has long ago been demonstrated, utterly useless.

      O.

      1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

        Re: Fine isn't good enough.

        > Any other action by the autorities is, as has long ago been demonstrated, utterly useless.

        What? Do you understand that what you are proposing is pointless? Whatever rank that would have to suffer the consequences could be replaced by a patsy.

  7. batfink Silver badge

    What's the point?

    There is no deterrent effect with these fines. The finees already know that they can just wind up their company and start all over again without handing over a penny. So, announcing these fines deters nobody.

    It might make good publicity amongst the unwashed I suppose, but that's not the point.

    @El Reg - perhaps an FOI request to find out how many of these fines over the last couple of years have actually been paid? That might make for entertaining questions in Parliament perhaps...

    1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: What's the point?

      Does tele-marketing actually do anything for the consumer?

      Why not ban such activity altogether and make it a criminal offense?

  8. Chris G Silver badge

    There should be an app for that.

    An app where telemarketing organisations and their numbers are listed and updated in a similar way to anti virus, which will block them from calling your device, might work.

    Of course I have zero idea how to apply such an idea, maybe someone has.

    If such a thing existed, I would subscribe to it.

    1. Noram

      Re: There should be an app for that.

      I think Android already does something similar automatically as people report spam calls, the issue is that the spammers just spoof numbers so they can change it every few hundred calls (or every call if they wanted).

      I've had calls from Indian/Pakistani call centres that have shown as local numbers on my phone which completely defeats the likes of "Trucall" unless you're willing to only allow whitelisted numbers through (which then stops things like the GP/Hospital/local store calling legitimately).

      What I want, and is unlikely to happen, is for ALL the UK telecoms providers to work together to sort out a "spam" company list and stop the use of spoofed numbers where the telecoms companies at the end point can't necessarily see who is calling.

      That way you could get rid of most of the spam regardless of where it originates in the same way email blocks do, and make it so that there are repercussions for the companies that provide these spammers with their connectivity in much the same way that "bad hosts" gets blacklisted if they keep allowing spammers to use their services.

      1. shade82000

        Re: There should be an app for that.

        What we need is a way for legit organisations to validate themselves before ringing. I don't know, maybe like how your network operator can send specially formatted SMS with config settings for your phone, you could set up a different passphrase with legit organisations and have your phone block all numbers by default except those in your contacts.Then before they call you they have to send you a message containing a hashed version of the passphrase, your phone validates it and unblocks that number for five minutes so they are able to call you.

        As it's a specially formatted message, your phone does the unblocking in the background, you don't see the SMS, but maybe it can pop up a notification saying company xyz is about to call.

        Use a different passphrase for each company and then you can remove them when you no longer need to hear from them.

        And if they don't have a passphrase? They get a pre-recorded message from the network operator saying "You're not authorised to call this number, please write to them on the address you have on file, or leave them alone."

      2. Jamie Jones Silver badge

        Re: There should be an app for that.

        The "trusted" networks should mark all caller-ids coming from untrusted networks as "unavailable".

        The problem is BT etc. blindly accepting the CLI handed to them by incoming networks and PBX's. There's nothing stopping BT etc. rejecting caller ID from a certain PBX if the presented number doesn't match a whitelist.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: There should be an app for that.

      There are a few landline phones that will screen calls. They will pass 'trusted' callers (friends and family and pre-screened numbers) straight through but everyone else gets screened.

      Most Telcos (BT, Sky, TalkTalk) offer call screening against a blacklist. And there are apps for mobiles that screen against blacklists to save you having to blacklist each and every call

    3. IGotOut Silver badge

      Re: There should be an app for that.

      My phone flags up suspected spam.

      I also actually go to the effort of reporting it to the carrier, takes all of 30 seconds.

  9. Patched Out

    Spoof the Spoofers

    At least in the U.S., there seem to be some "hacktivists" that like to change the spoofed caller ID for some of these scam callers. I once received a call with the Caller ID of "Illegal Scam". And more recently my wife received a call with the Caller ID of "Probably Fraud".

    A small thing, for sure, but gives me just a little joy when I see these.

  10. heyrick Silver badge
    FAIL

    Bullshit

    These calls caused "real distress" but the fine amounts to less than tuppence per call?

    Let's see £2 per call (minimum) with jail time for the director(s) upon failure to pay.

  11. Marc 13

    Simple solutions - The UK telcos get fined, PER CALL for each spoofed call they allow though their network. It might take a few goes, but they will find a way to check who's traffic they carry if the risk is a fine.

    As for the ones that originate in the UK, if you line is a "marketing" line (again, pretty easy top police if you are the telco) its a 5p per call *SETUP CHARGE*. i.e. every out bound call attempt costs the originating number 5p. Spam calling is only effective as its cost effective. Make it expensive to spam, reduce spam.

    M

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Absolutely agree. The ability to traverse the PSTN without an acknowledged and traceable identity is something that should be banned outright. I understand that some companies want to have one central phone number as callback, fine, but unless properly licensed, nobody should be able to hide caller identity.

      Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with someone withholding their number, but in case of abuse it should be possible to trace back the call by a relevant authority, and that includes a complaint model starting at the subscriber's telecomms provider. This would also crimp the ability of some herd of criminals to run a boiler room in a country with rather loose law enforcement to bilk pensioners out of their money.

      Don't tell me that would harm privacy because police and emergency services already have this, for obvious reasons.

      1. Caver_Dave Silver badge
        Unhappy

        CLI and public bodies

        I have for years complained to my Dr's Surgery, Hospital, Police Service, Council, etc. for them to provide a CLI number on their outgoing calls (preferably a number specific to the function that is calling, but the main reception number will do) rather than withholding the number.

        Most don't respond, but I do get the occasional "we have no plans for that at the moment."

        It really is very little effort for them, but would help the poor householders immeasurably.

    2. elaar

      Currently, the way the mobile/voip and PSTN networks interconnect, there's no way to stop/filter voip related spoof calls. We've been told they're "working on it", but it's years away (much like the banks managing to sort the direct debit recipient check).

      It's not the fault of individual Telcos.

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Then fine 'em

        BT et al would solve that problem really quickly if it cost them not to.

        Right now the incentive for telcos is to turn a blind eye and take the proffered pieces of silver.

      2. Jamie Jones Silver badge

        There is. They simply need to remove the CLI from an untrusted network.

        "Number unavailable" appearing more often is much better than the flood of spoofed id's

      3. Alan Brown Silver badge

        "there's no way to stop/filter voip related spoof calls"

        In a simple word "Bullshit"

        In a few more words, there are a number of ways of checking that the billing data matches the CLI data or has been authorised to use it

        Telcos are death on silent wings when billing data (several layers deeper than CLI) gets spoofed because _THAT_ is fucking with their income stream. They're repeatedly presented actions against such actors as "protecting the consumer" but the reality is entirely self-interest

    3. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "The UK telcos get fined, PER CALL for each spoofed call they allow though their network. "

      As they are paid for terminating calls, this is the best solution. They ARE jointly and severally liable for the calls.

      What the UK needs is its own versoin of the USA's 1998 TCPA act with mandatory per-call damages and making the caller plus the hiring party responsible. Once that happens it's impossible to wriggle out of it and small claims beckons

      I keep being told it would lead to a meltdown of the court system - to which my response is that if that actually happened, it would serve as a good demonstration of just how large the problem actually is

  12. Blackjack Silver badge

    Not even a pound for call?

    How cheap.

  13. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge
    Devil

    It also told them that failure to do is a criminal offence

    Doing it the first place should be a criminal offence, with mandatory serious jail time for the directors and executives of any company committing said offence.

    Minimum 5 years, no early release. Sentence scales by a year per million calls made, to a maximum of 10 years, again with no chance of early release.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It also told them that failure to do is a criminal offence

      .. and mandatory requirement to answer a dial-in only phone line whose number is published globally to everey spammer and his mother - which won't switch off at night.

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