Trading standards body’s £36,000 fine strengthens ICO’s enforcement of TPS laws

A local trading standards body in Dorset has fined a company for breaching Telephone Preference Service (TPS) legislation. The ICO has in the past prosecuted companies for non-compliance with data protection rules in connection with TPS but this is the first time an organisation other than the ICO has prosecuted a company for such breach, the Direct Marketing Association [DMA] says. In this case, Dorset County Council Trading Standards Service issued a £36,000 fine to a home improvements company, Apple Group Holdings Limited. Cooperation between the ICO and trading standards officers has formally been in place since May 2008 (PL&B UK April 2008 p.8 and June 2008 pp.7-9.)

John Mitchison, head of the TPS, said: “Companies breaching TPS laws are now facing a far greater risk of being prosecuted compared to this time last year, with over 200 Local Authority Trading Standards Services in the UK.”

“Businesses using telemarketing as a part of their marketing mix need to be cautious when conducting the right checks on the data they use or buy. Screening against the TPS is an essential part of data compliance and companies need to take all complaints seriously.”

Chris Combemale, executive director of the DMA which operates TPS, said: “No company should ever want to be known for making nuisance calls. Doing so will damage their reputation, lose them customers and attract the attention of a growing number of regulators with the powers to issue steep financial penalties.”

The ICO is now suggesting the lowering of the PECR threshold in this respect so that it would be enough to show ‘irritation and nuisance’ rather than ‘substantial damage or distress’ which is now a prerequisite for fines. The ICO has also set up an online reporting tool which people can use to send it the details of any unwanted marketing texts and calls.