Directors should be personally liable for fines, says Information Commissioner in Parliament

Elizabeth Denham, in her first appearance before a Parliamentary Committee since being appointed Information Commissioner, called for directors to be accountable by becoming personally liable to pay fines. The context for this comment was today’s hearing on the Digital Economy Bill.

The ICO receives thousands of complaints a year about nuisance calls and has imposed fines of around £4 million. But much less than this sum is collected because companies disappear and reappear to escape the fines with the same directors. Responsibility is shared with OFCOM which takes action on silent and abandoned calls, explained Lindsey Fussell, the organisation’s Consumer Group Director.

Denham called for:

  • all direct marketing calls to display calling line identification,

  • the Digital Economy Bill to reference the ICO’s direct marketing guidance, published in 2013. However, this guidance has no formal status. The ICO’s written evidence to the committee explains: “Replacing the guidance with a statutory code of practice would give the guidance greater weight, enable us to provide more certainty on key issues such as time limits and consent to marketing from specific third parties, and make it easier to take enforcement action against organisations which don’t follow its provisions. Placing the guidance on a statutory footing will also help to ensure that it sits at the top of a hierarchy of various industry codes (such as that produced by the Direct Marketing Association and the new Fundraising Regulator).”

A full version of this article will appear in the Privacy Laws & Business UK Report Issue 88 to be published next month.