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NEWS: Companies behind cold calls face £500,000 fines

Companies behind cold calls and nuisance text messages will be fined up to £500,000 under a new government crackdown.

The new law follows tens of thousands of complaints about companies plaguing individuals with unsolicited or nuisance phone calls or texts.

Currently the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) can only interfere when it can prove the messages are causing a 'substantial damage or substantial distress.' However, the new laws, which come into effect on 6 April, mean the ICO can assess when a serious contravention has taken place.

Last year 175,000 complaints were made to the commissioner about nuisance texts and calls, but only few have been prosecuted.

Four in five people are regularly cold-called at home, while a third of householders feel intimidated by the messages according to consumer, group Which. This taskforce called for a review of the rules last December.

Digital economy minister, Ed Vaizey, said: "At the moment if the Information Commissioner goes after a company, he's got to show the company has caused you, the consumer at home, serious distress, serious harm. It's a very high test to pass which is why there have only been nine prosecutions, which is why we want to lower that test."

B2B brands will need to re-assess their telemarketing, and cold calling, techniques to ensure they don't face these penalties. 

Jane Frost, chief executive of the Market Research Society, commented: “We welcome the announcement today on the toughening of regulator’s powers to tackle nuisance calls. For some time now we have been actively campaigning to stop rogue operators who undertake ‘sugging’ (selling under the guise of market research) which we have always considered to be nuisance calls."