A Glasgow firm specialising in energy efficiency and renewable energy has been fined a record £200,000 for making automated marketing calls to the general public, in breach of the regulations set out by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
This is the largest fine the ICO has ever issued for nuisance calls, recognition of the flagrancy of the breach and the apparent distress it caused to many complainants.
Cambuslang-based Home Energy & Lifestyle Management (HELMS), the firm in question, appeared to shift the blame onto a third-party company, in comments made to the BBC. HELMS said the campaign had been brought to a halt prior to the ICO investigation.
A statement from a lawyer acting for the firm said that “HELMS had significant difficulty in fully co-operating with the ICO, owing to the failure of the third-party company to give any information to verify and explain the extent of the calls made.”
The ICO received 242 complaints about the calls from HELMS for an automated calling campaign that ran between October and December 2014, and offered “free solar panels” to respondents. This was also deemed “misleading” by the ICO, as its investigation revealed they were not free at all.
The regulations around automated calls require companies to have people’s permission – specifically naming the company in question – to make the calls. Consumers’ would have to have ticked a box expressing interest in a particular product from a particular company. They also have to be provided with a means to opt out of receiving calls. In both respects HELMS apparently failed to act within the regulations.
HELMS played a high-profile role in the Government’s Green Deal scheme, as one of a small number of firms who had achieved the accreditation to write Green Deal plans.