A personal injury claims company has gone into liquidation after being fined £80,000 for making nuisance calls – in one case phoning a single household 470 times.
Direct Assist told another complainant they were likely to be called for three years until they made a claim, despite repeated requests that their details to be removed.
If you are sick of cold calls and spam texts from companies like Direct Assist, read our guide to dealing with unwanted calls and texts.
Telephone preference service
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) registered 801 complaints about the Bolton-based company Direct Assist between January 2013 and July last year.
Every complaint came from someone who was registered with the TPS and who had not given permission for the company to call them, the ICO said.
One elderly and deaf complainant said the callers left them in fear of answering the phone that they relied on to maintain contact with family. Direct Assist continued to call despite being given this information.
The ICO found that Direct Assist instructed its staff to deliberately use phone numbers from lists that included people on the TPS, even claiming that the calls were being made by someone else using their company name.
Easier to punish firms making nuisance calls
Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: ‘This company has driven a coach and horses through cold calling rules and it’s good the ICO has acted decisively.
‘We want to see more fines when the rules change next week to make it easier for regulators to punish firms making these calls.
‘We also want to see senior executives held personally responsible for their company’s behaviour on nuisance calls, which could include disqualifying company directors if they flout the rules.’
From April 6, the legal requirement on the ICO to prove “substantial damage or distress” will be removed to make it easier to impose fines.
Irresponsible marketing is unacceptable
ICO head of enforcement Steve Eckersley said: ‘Direct Assist’s behaviour shows a blatant disregard for the law and the customers they tried to contact.
‘Even though the TPS contacted them 525 times to warn them about complaints being made, they continued to market their services through unsolicited phone calls.
‘This penalty sends a clear message that this type of irresponsible marketing is totally unacceptable. Companies need to think about their responsibilities, the law and the consequences if they try to break it.’
Direct Assist has now gone into liquidation and the ICO said it intended to register as an unsecured creditor in an attempt to obtain the fine.