back to article Brit data regulator fines five cold-calling fiends £405k

Five British companies are collectively nursing a £405,000 fine from the UK's data watchdog for making a combined total of 750,000 unsolicited marketing calls targeting vulnerable elderly people. The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) was alerted to the quintet's dodgy dealings after receiving complaints from the public …

  1. cantankerous swineherd
    Holmes

    who was selling the lists and where did the info come from?

    1. Alumoi Silver badge

      Everybody and his dog. What planet are you living on?

      1. m4r35n357

        Don't act so helpless. The company knows where it comes from. Just a matter of detective work . . . if there is a will.

      2. Alumoi Silver badge

        To all my downvoters:

        What's the matter with you? Do you really believe that there's a company out there who hadn't already/will /is tihinking about selling your info to the highest bidder? If Google/Microsoft/Facebook/Apple/your ISP/cell provider is doing it, why won't they?

        After all, there are a lot of (state-backed) hackers who will breach their database if there's too much public uproar.

        1. SundogUK Silver badge

          I'm glad I don't live in your world; it sounds like a really shitty place.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Yes, yes it is.

            Can we move to your world?

  2. Alan Mackenzie

    Oh, here we go again. :-( What's the betting that these "firms" will go bankrupt, failing to pay the fines, and then they will start up again, very soon, with new names and the same (lack of) faces?

    These people were intimidating the old and vulnerable, according to the report. Why do they not receive prison sentences?

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      What's the betting that these "firms" will go bankrupt

      Which is why I advocate a PAYG (for the callers) of compensating the callee. Dial 1461 or similar and receive as small fee for taking the call, greater if you're TPS registered, taken from the caller's account. The going bankrupt before paying up trick becomes a matter for the telco's credit controllers who won't let big bills rack up.

      Yes, it would require some monitoring to stop the bright spark who tries to get money from anyone who calls him regardless of who it was.

      An yes, it would take some work and expense upfront by the telcos to set up the required systems. In fact, if OFCOM started proposing this I think the telcos would manage to solve this so far insoluble problem fairly quickly.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I think the telcos would manage to solve this so far insoluble problem fairly quickly

        Dream on. Who makes the most money from these spam calls? I'll give you a hint. It's not the scumbags that make the calls (and have to pay for them).

        Expecting the telcos to end phone spam is as realistic as the junk food business solving the obesity problem.

    2. AndersH

      I fear you're right. UK Platinum Home Care Services Limited for example had net assets of £5.6k based on their last micro accounts (Feb 2021). The remedy would appear to be for directors to be disqualified, but it's a rare occurrence (in general). I've no idea if it's something the ICO could push for. (Yugashen Govender, one of the directors of the above company, setup another in April 2021 called Xtreme Appliance Cover Limited, I think we can guess the business model...)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "The remedy would appear to be for directors to be disqualified"

        Nope. A disqualified director can carry on as before without needing to be a director of their spam company. Or they could appoint their pet goldfish or whatever to replace them as a director.

        The only remedies for these scumbag spammers are asset seizures, meaningful fines and jail time.

    3. GlenP Silver badge

      I believe the ICO has been able to recover fines directly from the Directors since 2018. No doubt they'll all have tried to move or hide their assets but that doesn't work either these days.

      1. Alan J. Wylie

        TPS News - Making company directors personally liable

        This means that the ICO could hold individual directors to account where the company fails to pay the fine or is placed into liquidation; and where the individual is no longer in a senior position, for example through resignation.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Underscoring the point that "Limited liability" only protects SHAREHOLDERS, not Directors

          Company Directors have never been shielded from personal liability for knowingly engaging in unlawful activity

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Although this is true, I doubt any director has ever faced a UK court for knowingly (or unknowlingly) engaging in criminal activity.

            1. SundogUK Silver badge

              A five second web search would tell you otherwise.

        2. fidodogbreath Silver badge

          TPS News

          Did they use the new cover sheet on the TPS report, though?

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "I believe the ICO has been able to recover fines directly from the Directors since 2018. No doubt they'll all have tried to move or hide their assets but that doesn't work either these days."

        And if it comes to it, Unexplained Wealth Orders on their friends and family if they try to hide it that way.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      What do you mean? Only 74% remains uncollected. That's a 26% collection rate. Amazing.

    5. oiseau Silver badge
      WTF?

      Why do they not receive prison sentences?

      Because money-to-regulators, govt. contacts, too much hassle to get a proepr conviction, loopholes in the law, etc.

      And the fact that, at worse, there'll always be a patsy at hand.

      You have to hit where it hurts most: their pockets.

      But *not* for the offending companys' assets which may be worth nothing or not enough.

      Make for very high fines and into law that you can go first after the directors' and then the shareholders' own money/assets.

      You make money directly or indirectly from this type of scam?

      Sorry mate, but it is going to cost you all you have.

      And then some more.

      ie: lifetime ban from any post in any company in the UK or foreign subsidiary.

      £405k is an absurd pittance compared to the amount of money these scumbags make with these schemes by selling people's data.

      But if you dig deep into directors' and shareholders' stash (ie: BOTH the sellers and recipients of the stolen data), this type of thing will stop happening in less than a week.

      Regulators have to be as ruthless as the perpetrators but ...

      ... I fear that there's far too much money involved for that to happen.

      O.

  3. LenG

    Still at it

    I had a call this morning from someone telling me the extended warranty on my washing machine had expired and they were ringing to renew it. I found this strange since I never take out extended warranties in the first place and I declined immediately. However, I'm pretty sure the woman said she was from Appliance Cover. Fortunately, although elderly, I am not particularly vulnerable (except to physical violence)

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Still at it

      I ask them to send a copy of the renewal documents to the address they have on their database to me; ye to receive any.

      The most worrying thing is clearly, the legitimate company's offering appliance cover have serious data theft problems, as I've been surprised as to just how much the charlatans know about what white good I have - even knowing that the Zanussi has been replaced by manufacture xyz.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Still at it

        I once told one of these people that my Hoover washing machine had since been replaced by a Zanussi. Strangely and magically, I got a cal a few days later from a supposedly different company about taking out an extended warranty on my Zanussi washing machine. What neither knew is that my washing machine is neither of those brands :-) I like to mess with them when I have the time. Other times I just hang up or tell them to piss off.

    2. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Still at it

      I used to have a sort of script for callers helpfully fixing the faults on my computer remotely and sometimes took great delight in 'rebooting' a slow machine several times while being as apologetic as possible. I think I need to develop one for old people (the I have forgetfulness possibilities for hooking the caller are interesting here) getting help with their warranty renewals. I'll just go and check the washing machine...

  4. SImon Hobson Silver badge

    Interesting that the rates have gone up. Previously we'd be moaning about how it would have fallen under "cost of business" at point-something of a penny per call. Some of those fines are into several pound per call territory and that's guaranteed to wipe out any profit.

    That's if the fines are enforced that is.

  5. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    750,000 unsolicited marketing calls

    And that makes for only a £405,000 fine ?

    It should be a £750,000 fine at the very least, with bankruptcy guaranteeing you'll never be a manager of a company in the UK again.

    Come on, guys, it's high time you started fixing that shit.

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: 750,000 unsolicited marketing calls

      Being bankrupt doesnt seem to last long these days but then its never stopped anyone running a company by proxy.

  6. hoola Silver badge

    Puzzled

    My mobile number is clearly on a list that has been resold a number of times recently.

    I am constantly plagued by calls at the moment that if you do pick up are silent until somebody answers the automatic dialler at the other end. I have no idea how accurate the Google "Potential Spam Caller" is but at the moment, if that comes up I just leave it. Many are from the same number group. I am guessing that all the numbers are actually fake.

    My assumption at the moment is that even if you answer the call but it is silent, the dialler knows the phone number is active so does not toss it.

    How many "failed to answer" are needed to make it give up (if this is even a possibility) I don't know.

    Then we have the automated calls telling me that my Amazon account or some such thing has been compromised or order delayed.

  7. Filippo Silver badge

    It's good that the companies get fined. But it won't solve the problem. A company can go bankrupt and get restarted comparatively easily and with very little suffering for those responsible.

    I still believe that the only proper fix is for unsolicited calling to be a penal offense, at least to a TPS registered number. Same thing for caller ID spoofing. Jail, not fines.

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      A local hotel/pub/underagedrinkingestablishment was run by the same director for the 10 years I lived just down the road. He phoenixed it at least 5 and possibly 8 times while I was there! The only time it was shut was during power cuts.

  8. John Sager

    TPS has been useless for ages

    Basically the TPS is worse than useless. We let all calls with an unrecognised number go to the answering machine. It's very rare that any of these creatures leaves a message.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: TPS has been useless for ages

      >We let all calls with an unrecognised number go to the answering machine.

      Well from a live experiment, I suggest the BT home phones with call screening seem to be very effective. I installed one of these phones at an elderly relative's home after they were released from hospital 4 months back, the carer hasn't been bothered by any nuisance calls, to date...

      Shame there doesn't seem to be anything as simple for the junk mail legacy begging letters...

    2. David Hicklin

      Re: TPS has been useless for ages

      "We let all calls with an unrecognised number go to the answering machine"

      wish I could upvote you more than once - we do the same here with the same results

  9. gerdesj Silver badge
    Gimp

    Imagine a world

    ... where CLID declaration was compulsory and more importantly, a UK (pick your country) CLID cannot be used from abroad. I'm possibly prepared to relax this for residential ie non business but not much. When you say "hello", normally you tell people who you are.

    There is absolutely no technical reason why this can't work. Telephone calls these days are mostly packet switched and no longer circuit switched. When you pick up the blower, you do not have an electrical circuit between you and the other end. So let's drop the anachronisms.

    If a company wants to outsource their "support" to say India, then that's fine. Publish a number that is local to the target and use it. Calls are charged at the destination. For example, I can call someone at wholesale rates, so I can call someone in say Poland (from the UK) cheaper than I can call a UK number.

    Anyway, I think that all calls should have CLID from at least the same country as the caller.

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