back to article Menacing marketeers fined by ICO for 1.9M cold calls

The UK data watchdog has penalized five businesses it says collectively made 1.9 million cold calls to members of the public, illegally, as those people had opted out of being menaced at home by marketeers. Anyone registered with the Telephone Preference Service in the UK should not receive calls from organizations, unless …

  1. Pascal Monett Silver badge


    Nice to see this kind of thing catching on.

    Direct marketing can be useful, but it's mostly a nuisance and it endangers people who just can't say no (for whatever reason).

    Just say no.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Total ban by law (TPS or not)

      And the reason is that callers are not identifiable.

      Calling nowadays is mostly for critical communication. (Or fraud).

  2. nematoad Silver badge

    Gum them to death.

    Since October 2021, the ICO has fined 16 companies a total of £1.45 million for dialing the phone numbers of TPS members,

    Yes, and how much have they collected from these companies?

    Not much I'm betting.

    It would be much better if disqualification, personal fines and the possibility of jail time for the worst cases were put in place.

    Otherwise these rogue companies will just be liquidated and replacements registered and the carousel will just keep on turning.

    1. low_resolution_foxxes

      Re: Gum them to death.

      It's one of those situations where you wish Panarama would follow the ex Directors around and hound their neighbours for information.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Gum them to death.

      "Yes, and how much have they collected from these companies?"

      More than it used to. The ICO has been blocking companies from phoenixing and going after directors

      This has been happening BECAUSE of questions like yours

      1. Graham Cobb Silver badge

        Re: Gum them to death.

        That's good to hear. But we need a culture change:

        ICO, in every press release, must make it clear how much of the fines have been collected. If not possible for the particular incidents in the release (because it is too early) then tell us how much has been issued in fines in the previous 12 months and how much of that has been collected.

        Journalists, reporting on these press releases, should insist on getting the answers above before being willing to report on it, and should also demand names and addresses (from the Companies House register) of the individuals, or directors of the companies, fined and then include the names and home towns in their reports, like they do for other criminals.

  3. Headley_Grange Silver badge

    Assuming that the ICO ever collects then if average return per call is more than 30p then they've done OK, haven't they. With fines of this size it's just another cost of doing business. The fines should be ten times higher or they will never discourage it.

  4. s. pam Silver badge

    Sweet FA for those of us harassed

    All the times literally hundreds of spam calls despite our being on the TPS from the gitgo—who gets the money?

    That’s right, the politicians :(

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Sweet FA for those of us harassed

      Citation needed

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Won't make a bit of difference

    new companies will spring up, make a gazillion calls and disappear before anyone can do a think about it.

    This will remain the same until the heads of these scumbag companies are put on spikes outside the Supreme Court on Parliament Square.

  6. Eclectic Man Silver badge

    Spam calls

    Sadly the spam calls I get are from crooks who seem to think that I'll take the bait that my 'bank' has called about 'unusual transactions' on my 'card' which I can query by speaking to them by hitting "2", or that 'the Sky' is calling me about my my internet connection (I'm not with 'Sky'). So claiming I'll report them to the ICO is a bit pointless. I've had 3 in the past week to my landline, so I assume that my number has been sold on again.

    Oh well, at least it gives me something to whinge about.

    1. Graham Cobb Silver badge

      Re: Spam calls

      3 in a week? Luxury! I get about that every day - although I never answer calls from numbers I don't recognise and, guess what, none of them ever bother to leave voicemail. Yes, I am on TPS. No I am not going to waste my time engaging with them to get evidence.

      It should be illegal for any commercial caller not to leave a voicemail with their company name, company registration number and a valid callback number. Yeah, I know, not going to happen but I can dream...

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Spam calls

        "although I never answer calls from numbers I don't recognise"

        What you should do is answer ask them to hold on - you need to look something up to answer their question, have to go to answer the door, whatever - and then put the phone aside for 10 minutes. AFAICS that gets your number on an even more valuable list, the list of numbers it's best not to call. It certainly works for me as we get very few.

        1. TimMaher Silver badge

          Re: “put the phone aside”

          I often ask them to hold and then put the phone down by a speaker streaming BBC Radio 2.

          They give up after a while.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: “put the phone aside”

            If you stream "Greatest Hits" radio, you're never get rid of them!!

    2. My-Handle Silver badge

      Re: Spam calls

      Clearly they're going hard-ass on me then - they usually start by telling me that a warrant has been issued for my arrest by HMRC.

      Despite the fact that HMRC usually writes to you, not call you. When it does call, it doesn't do it from an unknown mobile number. They don't use a robot to talk to you. And they can't (directly) issue warrants for your arrest. Still stressful to hear a call like that.

      I usually twig that it's a robot call by the two or three second silence at the start, so I'm usually already on the way to hanging up by the time the robot gets two words in.

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Spam calls

      "Sadly the spam calls"

      I think it's important to distinguish between spam and scam. Most of the companies in the article are shady in their practices and have rightly been fined, but are actually offering a service. Just not a service that would be viable without the illegal spam calls. If the service itself was a scam and therefore illegal, I think we'd be hearing a bit more about that in the article and the in the fines and/or charges levelled at them.

      The calls coming from the Indian sub-continent and certain countries in Africa (primarily, other countries scammers are available) claiming to be the "bank security" or "Amazon security" etc are outright illegal scams trying to get access to your bank account and steal your money. There's very little point in reporting them to the ICO because they all use fake caller ID so at best, it would just be a statistics gathering game with zero chance of any real outcome. I suppose, in theory, if EVERY scam call was reported, it might actually produce some "big scary" numbers showing the actual scale of the problem and could lead to pressure on the phone companies to block the incoming sources, but even that would likely be a Whack-a-Mole event.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Spam calls

        I keep saying this but:

        The telco has records of at least who it took the call from. What's needed is a number, say 1476, to ring immediately after hanging up to report the spam. The telco records the number and with a bit of statistical checking to see if the source is being reported enough times it credits the reporters' accounts with a fee for their troubles (at least double for numbers on TPS), adds a fee for its own troubles and bills whoever sent it the call. If it's another telco then they can add their own fee and pass the bill back to the source until it either reaches the caller's account or a telco which has not yet learned to keep records. This will make it unduly expensive either for callers or for telcos who are prepared to handle the calls carelessly. One way or another it would kill the whole business stone dead.

        In practice it probably wouldn't need to be implemented. It would put telcos to considerable upfront costs to set up the system. Once legislators or regulators started talking seriously about implementing it I think the industry would quickly discover other, effective ways of stopping such calls, ways which up to now haven't been practical.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Spam calls

          "The telco has records of at least who it took the call from."

          The scam calls coming from out of country are commonly routed through multiple and varying systems, so all the receiving Telco knows is which telco handed the call to them and bills them or logs against reciprocal agreements. Depending on how it was routed, the originating number may no longer be attached to the incoming call, or it's injected into the local recipient telco from a VOIP system with no idea where the call originated. On the other hand, I notice the scam calls randomly come from "UK" numbers where the STD code doesn't even exist or from "local" numbers in my STD code, but on the rare times I tried calling it back, got a "number unobtainable" tone. So blocking invalid number might be an option, except where genuine overseas calls come into the UK from systems that don't present CID or calls from organisations that have broken PABXs not presenting a number, eg Hospitals and Doctors surgeries, as sometime gets reported here.

          I think the only real solution is your suggestion of blocking, but it would have to be blocking the previous telco or VOIP system down the line until they clean up their act, ie forcing them to be better partners. But again, it's going to be Whack-a-Mole and BT and others are unlikely to want to block a major foreign telco.

      2. stungebag

        Re: Spam calls

        One of the callers in the article called my TPS-listed landline just this morning to discuss the warranties on my appliances. They don't know what appliances I own and I very much doubt that they'd be of any use if an appliance broke down and I tried to book a service call with them. So they may appear to be offering a real service I'm not sure that they are.

  7. aerogems Silver badge

    Let me guess

    They can just declare bankruptcy to get out of paying, create a new company, and start up their operation all over again. By the time they get caught (again) they'll have squirreled away most of their ill gotten gains in a bank account in a bank where they won't cooperate with any requests from the UK government.

    Out of curiosity, do the UK and/or Australian versions also exempt political calls? Just wondering how universal the self-serving politician thing is.

    1. Graham Cobb Silver badge

      Re: Let me guess

      I don't know the rules about political calls but I can tell you I (in the UK) have never received one as far as I know (but I don't generally answer unknown callers from numbers outside the village).

      1. TimMaher Silver badge

        Re: local village.

        Is that a local village for local people?

        “League of Gentlemen”.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Let me guess

      I think the rules changed recently and the company owners/directors can be made personally liable for the fines now and it's harder to wind up a company while legal proceedings are under way, specifically because of this "phoenix" trick.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    £590,000 ?


  9. sitta_europea Silver badge

    According to the documents filed at Companies House, on 30 September 2022 House Hold Appliances Ltd (registered address Neptune Court, Vanguard Way, Cardiff, Wales, CF24 5PJ) had total net assets of £965. Strike-off action has been started and stopped every year since the company was formed in 2020. Nobody in his right mind would do business with a company like this.

    [1] Take the call.

    [2] Say "Just a moment, I have to take the pan off the stove."

    [3] Leave the caller hanging on there until next Tuesday week.

    Alternatively, at [2] you can ask them what colour underwear they're wearing, and if it's the edible kind, but most people don't have the bottle for that.

    1. abend0c4

      I think only one of the 5 companies is not in the process of being struck-off (either voluntarily or for failing to file accounts). A couple have never filed accounts, the others did not at the time of last filing seem to have assets to cover the fines.

      Given that they're unlikely to announce their full legal name if you answer the call, or indeed give you time to look them up at Companies House, it's probably best just not to answer the call.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "it's probably best just not to answer the call"

        No, siita has the right idea. Get them to hang on. While they're doing that they're not bothering anyone else so you can put it down as a public service on your part, and it's wasting their time. Given how few such calls we get my belief is that there are lists circulating of numbers it's best not to ring.

  10. gandalfcn Silver badge

    Why has it taken so long?

  11. I Am Spartacus

    Where do I send my bill?

    As one of those constantly cold called, I want my compensation.

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