To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, if her Department will take steps to (a) identify countries that are hotspots of illegal nuisance calling to the UK and associated business activity and (b) improve collaboration with regulators and other investigative and enforcement authorities in those countries.
The level of nuisance calls made to UK numbers is monitored by independent bodies. The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) takes the lead in tackling unsolicited live direct marketing calls and automated marketing message calls through its responsibility for enforcing the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR). Further information about the level of nuisance calls and enforcement action taken by the ICO is available on the ICO’s website at https://ico.org.uk/action-weve-taken/nuisance-calls-and-messages/.
The Office of Communications (Ofcom) is the regulator for telecommunications services in the UK and, in respect of nuisance calls, its focus is primarily on abandoned and silent calls. Ofcom will be releasing its most recent statistics following its nuisance calls consumer survey later this month. Information on this is available on its website at ofcom.org.uk
The Government has been clear that there is no place for nuisance calls in our society and we continue to work with regulators and industry on practical solutions to this problem. The Government has taken a range of recent actions to reduce the number of nuisance calls. The Government has banned cold calls from personal injury firms and pensions providers unless the consumer has explicitly agreed to be contacted. The Government has also introduced director liability for nuisance calls, meaning that the ICO can impose a fine of up to £500,00 on a company, its directors, or both where it establishes a breach has occurred (previously, only the company could be fined). This measure has enhanced the ICO’s regulatory effectiveness by raising the issue of unsolicited marketing at board level. The Government is also funding National Trading Standards to install call blocking devices in the homes of vulnerable people.
The ICO has a dedicated team to investigate organisations making nuisance calls and take action when evidence supports enforcement action. The ICO has a joint action plan with Ofcom for tackling nuisance calls. The ICO also works closely with the Ministry of Justice’s Claims Management Regulation Unit and the National Crime Agency to share intelligence and deter and penalize organisations and individuals responsible for the harm caused by nuisance calls. The ICO works with the Insolvency Service to ensure as much of the monetary penalties issued to those that are in breach of the rules is recovered.
The ICO has arrangements with other countries to share information and intelligence about organisations potentially contravening UK law, including the PECR. It makes referrals to those countries where it identifies organisations making unlawful calls to UK subscribers, and has a number of such investigations ongoing at the present time. The ICO will continue to work with its counterparts including in countries where large numbers of nuisance calls are being made to the UK, in order to identify the offenders and solutions to the problem.