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16 Mar 2022

Five firms selling appliance cover fined for making 'predatory marketing calls'

The Information Commissioner's Office fines five firms £405,000

Five companies that deliberately targeted older, vulnerable people with nuisance calls about white goods insurance have been fined a total of £405,000 by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO).

Which? has been warning about firms cold calling people about insurance for white goods and other household appliances for many years.

We reported in 2018 that firms may pretend to be affiliated with existing providers such as Domestic & General to trick people into 'renewing' their cover. Later investigations found that some of these companies appear to be working together to target older and vulnerable people.

We've received nearly 400 reports about appliance cover, often from concerned family members who discover their elderly relatives are paying hundreds or even thousands of pounds a month for worthless cover.

We continue to share these reports - over 100 different firms to date - with both the ICO and Trading Standards to help with their ongoing investigations.

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Five firms fined £405,000

The ICO announced today that it has fined five firms a total of £405,000. They made over 750,000 unwanted marketing calls, often to vulnerable people, including individuals with dementia or other underlying health conditions.

The ICO found that these companies were buying marketing data lists, specifically asking for people aged 60 and older, homeowners and with landline numbers. It says these companies were either working together or using the same marketing list to target people, resulting in some people losing thousands of pounds for white goods insurance and servicing which the companies often knew they did not need.

  • Domestic Support Ltd, based in Littlehampton, West Sussex, made 69,133 unwanted marketing calls to people registered with the TPS between January 2020 and July 2020. Complaints received suggest that it was providing different trading names when calling people, which is also unlawful. The company has been fined £80,000 and issued with an enforcement notice.
  • Home Sure Solutions Ltd, based in Hove, East Sussex, made 229,483 unwanted marketing calls to people registered with the TPS between March 2020 and September 2020. The ICO found that it purchased personal data from a third-party provider, which was ambiguous as to the source of the data, without carrying out due diligence. It was also quoted a price by a third-party provider for the personal information of UK homeowners, aged 60+ and with landline numbers, which shows they were deliberately targeting older people. The company has been fined £100,000 and issued with an enforcement notice.
  • Seaview Brokers Ltd, based in Chichester, West Sussex, made 4,737 unwanted marketing calls to people registered with the TPS in June 2020. Seaview purchased the data book from another company without reviewing evidence of consent for direct marketing or carrying out due diligence. The company has been fined £15,000 and issued with an enforcement notice.
  • UK Appliance Cover Ltd, based in London, made 39,167 unwanted marketing calls to people registered with the TPS between June 2020 and December 2020. Complaints received suggest that the company was targeting vulnerable people for financial gain. The ICO found no evidence that the services advertised through the nuisance calls were actually being provided. Complainants also said the callers were aggressive and threatening. The company has been fined £100,000 and issued with an enforcement notice.
  • UK Platinum Home Care Services Ltd, based in London, made 412,556 unwanted marketing calls to people registered with the TPS between March 2020 and October 2020, resulting in more than 50 complaints being made. The company purchased personal data from third-party providers, with contracts and invoices showing the company requested the contact details of people aged 60-80, homeowners and landline numbers. The company has been fined £110,000 and issued with an enforcement notice.

'People felt frightened and distressed'

John Edwards, UK Information Commissioner, said: 'These are unlawful predatory marketing calls that were targeted at some of the most vulnerable members of our society and driven purely by financial gain. It is clear from the complaints we received that people felt frightened and distressed by the aggressive tactics of these companies, sometimes giving their financial details just so they could hang up the phone. This is unacceptable and truly despicable.'

'It is only right that we take tough and prompt action to punish those companies responsible using our full powers. Companies making similar nuisance calls and causing harm to people can expect a tough response from my office. I encourage anyone who is being pestered by other rogue operators, or knows a family member or friend who is, to report them to the ICO and we will step in to protect the public from these invasive calls.'

The ICO is continuing to investigate a number of other companies - in addition to the five fined today - that appear to be operating in the same way. Which? and other key stakeholders, including Action Fraud, Trading Standards, Ofcom, and TrueCall will continue to work together to tackle this issue.

How to beat cold callers

Which? has some advice on stopping nuisance calls. If you know someone who is particularly vulnerable, speak to their telephone network to see what call blocking solutions may be available to support them. You can also:

  • Register landlines and mobile numbers with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) free of charge.
  • Report any nuisance calls to the ICO using its online nuisance calls reporting tool.
  • Refer to Action Fraud (in England, Northern Ireland and Wales) and Police Scotland (in Scotland) if you or someone you know has been the victim of fraud. Wider concerns about a business' practices can be referred to Trading Standards.

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