ICO Finds Reports Of Nuisance Calls And Texts Up 12 Percent

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ICO annual report also highlights prosecutions following serious cases of customer data breaches by TfL employees and businesses

Complaints about nuisance calls and texts have risen almost 12 percent in the last year, according to the Information Commissioners Office’s (ICO) latest annual report.

In the past 12 months, the ICO reported an 11.4 percent rise in number of concerns raised about nuisance calls and text to 180,188.

“We received almost 180,000 online reports about nuisance calls and texts…and have undertaken more regulatory action than ever before. Most concerns related to accident claims, green energy deals, payday loans and lifestyle surveys. Live calls generate significantly more concerns than automated calls and spam texts,” read the report.

Civil monetary penalties

In response to the many complaints, the ICO said it dished out £386,000 worth of civil monetary penalties to offenders, as well as eight enforcement notices that effectively put companies on a ‘watch list’ to ensure they comply to rules in the future.

The report said that the ICO is monitoring a further 31 organisations in relation to nuisance calls and texts, as well as having met with 17 others to “ensure they had action plans to reduce the number of complaints about them”.

The ICO also highlighted a number of “serious” cases in which people’s personal data was accessed by “unscrupulous and determined” criminals.

ICOThere were 55 cases in total of breaches of Section 55 of the Data Protection Act, which concluded with 10 criminal convictions.

Cases included that of a Transport for London employee who was prosecuted for unlawfully accessing Oyster card records of family members and neighbours, a company director who was fined for accessing EE’s customer databases, and a prosecuted pharmacist who worked for West Sussex Primary Care Trust who unlawfully accessed the medial records of family members, work colleagues and local health professionals.

Christopher Graham, the Information Commissioner, highlighted in a speech today how the ICO’s regulatory powers can continue to develop legislation that protects consumers.

In the past year, the ICO was given powers to compulsorily audit NHS bodies for their data handling, while forcing a potential employee to make a subject access request for, for example, their spent criminal record was also made an offence. A law change also made it easier to issue fines to companies behind nuisance calls and texts.

“It’s thirty years since this office was established in Wilmslow. We’ve seen real developments in the laws we regulate during that time, particularly over the past year. Just look at the EU Court of Justice ruling on Google search results, a case that could never have been envisaged when the data protection law was established,” said Graham.

“Responsible regulator”

“Our role throughout has been to be the responsible regulator of these laws. More than that, we work to demystify some of this legislation, making clear that data protection isn’t to be seen as a hassle or a duck-out, but a fundamental right.”

Other key statistics from the 2014/15 report include the number of data protection concerns received by the ICO, which stood at 14,268, as well as 1,177 information requests responded to.

“It’s been the ICO’s job to help public authorities to comply with requests,” Graham said. “The ICO’s role has led to information being released that time and time again has delivered real benefits for the UK.”

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