The Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is consulting on proposals to lower the threshold for consumer harm, to enable the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to bring enforcement action against those who make unsolicited direct marketing calls and SMS text messages. The proposals will also apply to automated recorded calls, fax messages, email, identification of sender (when concealed) for email, and the information regulations. (If like me, you probably receive them just when you’re about to sit down to eat!)
Before issuing a notice (of an intention to fine) of up to £500,000, the ICO must first be satisfied that there was a serious contravention of the relevant Regulations, which was likely to cause substantial damage or substantial distress. This is a high threshold and gives, in many cases, an easy out, even to the worst offenders. The government therefore is proposing to lower the threshold or remove it altogether.
The consultation will be of interest to consumers, business, direct marketing companies, consumer representative organisations, service providers, enforcement authorities and the general public. The deadline for responses is noon on 7 December 2014.
If the threshold is changed, it is hoped the ICO will be able to issue more notices and this should prove to be a significant deterrent against non-compliance.