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ICO fines chaser over cold-calls

Claims management firm EMCAS has been fined £70,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office after hundreds of consumers complained about unsolicited marketing calls.

The ICO says there were “serious” breaches of the privacy and electronic communications regulations, including repeated invasions of privacy and distress for consumers.

EMCAS failed to ensure that third-party introducers calling on its behalf were checking consumers’ numbers against a list held by Ofcom of those who have said they do not wish to receive direct marketing calls.

Between 1 March 2013 and 28 February 2014, The Telephone Preference Service – set up by Ofcom to manage the list – received 562 complaints from customers who had received calls from EMCAS.

During the same period, the ICO also received 68 complaints from individuals who had received unsolicited direct marketing calls from EMCAS. Around half of these complainants described the calls as ‘repeat’, saying they had previously asked EMCAS not to call again. Some consumers described the calls as “distressing” and complained of feeling “hounded”.

EMCAS is also being investigated by the Ministry of Justice, the claims management regulator.

A spokesman for EMCAS says: “We aim to ensure that we only contact people who have given their permission for us to do so. However, between March 2013 and February 2014, this aim was not met for a small percentage of our customers, and we failed to prevent some unwanted calls from being made; for this, we offer our sincerest apologies.

“Following the ICO fine, we have been anticipating notification from the claims management regulator that they would be following up with their own investigation. This is standard practice and is designed to ensure that our regulator is satisfied that we are now fully compliant.

“Since the ICO findings were first brought to our attention in February, we have made significant changes to our business to ensure that we only contact people who have explicitly consented to receive such communication.”

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