By: 8 November 2016
Custodial sentences needed to crack nuisance call problem, says DMA

The DMA, the UK trade association for the one-to-one marketing industry, is calling for custodial sentences to be made available to punish those that repeatedly breach data protection laws by making illegal nuisance calls.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) recently announced that from spring 2017 it would be able to hold rogue directors personally responsible for breaches under the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR). This could lead to them being liable for fines up to £500,000 each.

However, the DMA has said that the Government should “go one step further” and and bring in custodial sentences for the worst breaches of data protection law, to ensure that those responsible for nuisance calls and spam texts are held to account. It has quoted figures from Which? showing that the ICO has collected just four out of 22 fines in full that it issued over the past 12 months, with many companies going into liquidation to avoid paying.

Chris Combemale, CEO at the DMA Group, said: “It should come as no surprise that individuals willing to skirt the law when it suits them are also ready to do the same to avoid paying their debts. That’s why the powers of the ICO have recently been extended to also allow it to fine the directors that set up multiple companies to avoid justice.

“We wholeheartedly support the extension of fines to the individuals that are behind the rogue businesses, but for the worst and repeat offenders we believe the penalties should extend to custodial sentences as well. The Justice Secretary has the powers, which were introduced in the wake of the phone hacking scandal, but it’s now time they were used.”

“The introduction of custodial sentences is the next step in the campaign against nuisance calls and spam texts. The individuals profiting from these rogue businesses may well think twice about breaking data protection law if there is a real threat that they may go to prison for it.”