Thursday, 21 August 2014

Breaking the rules is a big mistake

 Companies caught breaking direct marketing rules could find themselves facing hefty fines as a growing number of authorities clamp down on offenders.

Local authorities, trading standards departments, and the Information Commissioner’s Office are all now pursuing firms which are flouting, or ignoring the law. It has been sparked by a rise in the number of small businesses cold-calling people who have registered with the ‘do not call’ list, run by the Telephone Preference Service.

Eliot Hibbert, from Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, said: “The TPS is the official central opt-out register that allows people to indicate their preference not to receive unsolicited marketing calls.

“If a company ignores the list, even unknowingly, it will be in breach of the law, and it is clear that a growing number of organisations are prepared to prosecute.”

Eliot said: “Historically, it has usually been the Information Commissioner’s Office that investigates breaches of the rules, and it still has the power to impose fines of up to £500,000. But in the past few weeks, councils and trading standards departments have also been showing far more of an appetite for bringing prosecutions too.”

Apple Group Holdings Limited is one of the companies successfully prosecuted by trading standards officials, for continuously cold-calling people. The company, with offices in Dorset, Devon, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, received a £36,000 fine. This successful prosecution, which is believed to be the first of its kind, could prompt other councils to take similar action,” Eliot said.

“It also means that individuals may also be more inclined to approach their local council about unwanted telephone calls, rather than the Information Commissioners Office.

“So what should a company do, to steer clear of the pitfalls? As always, if you follow the rules, you have nothing to fear. But the relevant legislation can be a minefield.

“If you undertake direct marketing of any kind, or you are thinking about doing so for the first time, it is worth downloading the free guidance details from the Information Commissioners Office.

“It explains how to comply with the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations, and how to screen telephone numbers against the TPS register. Follow its guidance to the letter, and you won’t go far wrong.”