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Holmes Financial Solutions Ltd fined £300,000 after making 8.7 million nuisance calls

A company that made 8.7 million nuisance calls has been fined £300,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

Holmes Financial Solutions Ltd, based in Speke, Liverpool, made the automated marketing calls between 22 October 2015 and 27 July 2016.

The 8,792,907 calls contained recorded messages, primarily promoting PPI compensation claims, but the company did not have the recipients’ consent for sending direct marketing, which is against the law.

It also broke the law by failing to identify the organisation making the calls, while it used so-called ‘added value’ numbers that generate revenue when an individual calls the number, which is then apportioned and passed to associated companies and the network carrier.

The ICO received 62 complaints from the public about Holmes Financial Solutions Ltd. Some people were called on multiple occasions. Others said they were unable to opt out of receiving the calls. Some expressed further distress as they were concerned that the call may have been about something happening to a friend or family member.

The contravention could have been far higher since it is known that the company instigated over 26.6 million automated calls.

ICO Head of Enforcement, Steve Eckersley, said:

“The company paid no heed to laws on telephone marketing and showed no concern for the distress they were causing people, by making huge volumes of invasive calls.

“The ICO will not tolerate companies who blatantly disregard the law and Holmes Financial Solutions Ltd has paid the price for their negligence.

“I welcome the Government’s plans to introduce personal liability for directors who think they are above the law, and hope to see them introduced as soon as possible, to support our work to stop such rogue traders operating.” 

Some of the complaints received from the public about Holmes Financial Solutions Ltd were as follows:

  • “This has been going on for months if not years. It causes me anxiety feeling targeted.”
  • “It made me angry as I repeatedly receive similar calls - I've asked them to remove/delete my number politely - yet they keep calling.”
  • “I'm being hounded continually by this company.”
  • “It rings me at least 3/4 times a week during work hours and is disruptive to my work day and meetings.”
  • "Is always a little worrying when you get an unexpected call from a number you don't recognize. One tends to think something has happened to a friend or family member.”

Notes 

  1. The Information Commissioner’s Office upholds information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.
  2. The ICO has specific responsibilities set out in the Data Protection Act 1998, the Freedom of Information Act 2000, Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003.
  3. The ICO can take action to change the behaviour of organisations and individuals that collect, use and keep personal information. This includes criminal prosecution, non-criminal enforcement and audit. The ICO has the power to impose a monetary penalty on a data controller of up to £500,000.
  4. The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a new law which will apply in the UK from 25 May 2018. The Government has confirmed the UK’s decision to leave the EU will not affect the commencement of the GDPR. The Government is introducing measures related to this and wider data protection reforms in a Data Protection Bill.
  5. The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) sit alongside the Data Protection Act. They give people specific privacy rights in relation to electronic communications. There are specific rules on:
    • marketing calls, emails, texts and faxes;
    • cookies (and similar technologies);
    • keeping communications services secure; and
    • customer privacy as regards traffic and location data, itemised billing, line identification, and directory listings.

      We aim to help organisations comply with PECR and promote good practice by offering advice and guidance. We will take enforcement action against organisations that persistently ignore their obligations.
  6. Civil Monetary Penalties (CMPs) are subject to a right of appeal to the (First-tier Tribunal) General Regulatory Chamber against the imposition of the monetary penalty and/or the amount of the penalty specified in the monetary penalty notice.
  7. Any monetary penalty is paid into the Treasury’s Consolidated Fund and is not kept by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
  8. To report a concern to the ICO telephone our helpline 0303 123 1113 or go to ico.org.uk/concerns.