ICO fines energy company £200,000

A green energy company, Home Energy & Lifestyle Management Ltd (HELM), has been fined £200,000 for a breach of the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR).

The company had made over six million calls as part of a massive automated telephone marketing campaign offering ‘free’ solar panels. The ICO was alerted to the problem following 242 complaints, received in just two months. The calls did not identify the sender and the option of being connected to a person or suppressing the number was not always effective. What makes the incident particularly worrying is that the company is part of the Government’s Green Deal initiative.

During the ICO’s investigation, HELM stated that each customer record was purchased from reputable suppliers and screened against the Telephone Preference Service list before it was added to their database. HELM explained that they also used a sophisticated filtering system to “suppress” and “block” telephone numbers from being dialled if requested by subscribers. It later transpired that the company did not know that a different PECR regulation applied to automated marketing calls, as opposed to “live calls”.

Steve Eckersley, Head of Enforcement at the ICO said: This company’s ignorance of the law is beyond belief. It didn’t even bother to find out what the rules were and its badly thought out marketing campaign made people’s lives a misery. The monetary penalty is for a significant amount because of the clear failings of the company, and the number of people affected by its deliberate and unlawful campaign.”

“It should be a warning to other companies to think before they launch into a campaign. Direct marketing campaigns can be run within the law with a little thought and there’s plenty of advice available to companies in the ICO’s website.”

The penalty notice can be seen at https://ico.org.uk/media/action-weve-taken/mpns/1432872/helm-monetary-penalty-notice.pdf